The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 21 June 2012 in Luxembourg. I represented the United Kingdom.
The main discussion was a policy debate on the Europe 2020 strategy: contribution to the European Council (28 and 29 June 2012)—European semester. The presidency stated that it was vitally important for Europe to take ambitious reform measures and the Commission stressed the greater need for economic integration in Europe. I intervened to state that country specific recommendations (CSRs) were a key tool and needed to be ambitious and challenging but that they needed to be fully supported by evidence and be relevant to individual member states. I further stressed that the process for agreeing CSRs needed improvement and in particular, the Commission should show greater willingness to listen and accept changes where duly justified and supported by evidence.
There were progress reports on four topics; legislative initiatives for posting of workers; minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields); the principle of equal treatment of persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation; and the European globalisation adjustment fund (EGF) (2014-20). On EGF, there was support from some member states to continue the fund in the next programming period while other disagreed. I intervened to state that the fund should be discontinued.
In addition, Ministers adopted two sets of Council conclusions, covering responding to the demographic challenges through enhanced participation in labour market and society by all, and gender equality and the environment: enhanced decision making, qualifications and competitiveness in the field of climate change mitigation policy in the EU.
Ministers reached a partial general approach on the programme for social change and innovation (PSCI) excluding the programme budget. I supported this, while tabling a minute statement stressing that, as the Danish presidency has made clear, progress in negotiating individual sectoral regulations should not prejudice the outcome of the overall multiannual financial framework discussion. Ministers also endorsed the main messages from the Social Protection Committee’s report on pensions’ adequacy.
Under any other business, the Commission provided information on national Roma integration strategies and the ratification and implementation of the UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities. The presidency provided information on conferences held during the Danish presidency. The Commission and presidency both reported on the G20 meeting of Labour and Employment Ministers, and finally, the Cypriot delegation outlined the work programme of their forthcoming presidency.