The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 16 October 2014 in Luxembourg. I represented the United Kingdom.
The Council agreed a general approach on a proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European platform to enhance co-operation in the prevention and deterrence of undeclared work. Through negotiation we have achieved textual changes which clarify that participation in activities arising from the platform’s discussions will be voluntary. The UK abstained on this vote due to parliamentary scrutiny reserve.
There was a policy debate on the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 strategy, including the evaluation of the European semester. There was general agreement between member states on the future direction of the Europe 2020 strategy; the mid-term review; and the evaluation of the European semester. The UK expressed continued support for Europe 2020 and a renewed emphasis on economic and employment growth. The UK also highlighted the need to avoid new tools of EU governance. As part of this discussion, the Council endorsed the joint opinion presented by the Employment Committee (EMCO) and Social Protection Committee (SPC). The Council also endorsed the SPC report on social policy reforms for a fair and competitive Europe.
Under any other business, the Commission delivered a presentation on a shortfall in the European social fund budget. The UK intervened to set out that while the backlog of unpaid commitments was an issue that needed to be addressed, the Commission should be managing such spending pressures. The Italian presidency provided information to the Council on the September 2014 G20 Labour and Employment Ministers’ meeting. It also provided an update on the proposed tripartite social summit and on other ongoing issues. Finally, the Council paid tribute to the outgoing Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor, thanking him for his commitment to social reforms.