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Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Volume 577: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2014

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 10 March 2014 in Brussels. Shan Morgan, Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, represented the United Kingdom.

The “A” points were adopted, with the UK voting against the proposal for a regulation on the fund for the European aid to the most deprived. Both Houses submitted “reasoned opinions” that the Commission’s proposal did not comply with the principle of subsidiarity. The Government agreed with these concerns. The regulation creates an EU scheme to finance the distribution of food and consumer goods to deprived people. These activities are better and more efficiently delivered by individual member states and their local authorities, rather than through EU programmes. The fund will be financed in each member state by diverting resources from the member state’s structural funds programmes which support local growth and help disadvantaged people into work.

The Council reached an agreement in principle on the tripartite social summit for growth and employment. The Commission welcomed the consensus that had been reached by member states on this proposal and understands that due to the use of article 352, which triggered changes in national legislation in the UK, Germany and the Czech Republic, the decision would not be able to be adopted under the Greek presidency. The UK stated that we had no concerns with the substance of the decision but that we could not give formal agreement until the decision had been agreed in our national Parliaments.

The Council adopted the recommendation on a quality framework for traineeships with minimal discussion. The UK outlined its principled objection to this initiative, which was too prescriptive, would impose unnecessary burdens on both Governments and employees, and risked resulting in fewer traineeships being offered. The UK stressed it was committed to tackling the issue of youth unemployment and had put in place a range of measures to that effect, however any additional EU initiatives should focus more on outcomes and results, rather than prescribing a rigid framework that failed to take sufficient account of national priorities.

There were two policy debates on the 2014 European semester and on the recent Commission communication taking stock of the Europe 2020 strategy published on 5 March 2014. The outcome of both discussions will provide EPSCO’s contributions to the March European Council. The UK stressed that structural reforms to create jobs and enable people to move into work were essential. As such, the Europe 2020 targets should continue to focus strongly on employment and the employment guidelines should highlight the importance of labour market participation for all groups, not just young people.

Ministers adopted Council conclusions on the annual growth survey (AGS) and the social situation in the EU; the draft joint employment report (JER); and agreed a general approach on the Council decision on the employment guidelines.

Under any other business the Commission presented the main findings of its implementation reports on the gender recast directive 2006/54 and two anti-discrimination directives (2000/43 and 2000/78) which were published last year. The presidency updated the Council on its progress on legislative files and the upcoming tripartite social summit, and the work programmes for the Employment Committee (EMCO) and the Social Protection Committee (SPC) were presented by the Committee Chairs.