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Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 18 December 2014

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 11 December 2014 in Brussels.

The Council agreed general approach on both the directive applying existing employment directives to seafarers and the proposed regulation on the European network of employment services (EURES). On seafarers, the UK supported the proposal as a whole but tabled a statement setting out concerns around the legal basis. On EURES, the UK supported as this met the Government’s domestic goals. This dossier will now be passed to the Latvian presidency to take forward negotiations with the European Parliament.

The Council reached political agreement on a directive concerning working time in inland waterway transport. The UK opposed this directive and together with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland and Malta tabled a joint statement highlighting the inadequacy of the Commission’s impact assessment and the lack of adherence to better regulation principles. The UK also tabled a second statement with Hungary and Malta which raised concerns about the lack of representation during the social partner negotiations.

There was an exchange of views on the subject of “Investing in Youth Employment”, including discussions on the implementation of the youth guarantee and the European Alliance for Apprenticeships. In this, the UK welcomed the commitment to tackle youth unemployment in Europe and highlighted the success of the UK approach to youth employment. The UK reiterated the message that national labour markets must determine the appropriate response.

The European Commission presented the annual growth survey 2015, the joint employment report and the alert mechanism report, and invited views from member states. In the discussions, the UK intervened to welcome the package presented while raising concerns over the increased role of social and employment indicators in the procedures to tackle macroeconomic imbalances as this could distract from the employment and growth focus of the European employment strategy.

In introducing the proposed directive for gender balance of non-executive directors on company boards, the presidency noted that further work was needed. The presidency invited the incoming Latvian presidency to take it forward.

The Italian presidency reported on progress of the directive to encourage improvements in the workplace health and safety of women who are pregnant or breastfeeding where disagreements between the Council and the European Parliament remained. The presidency noted that the Commission was considering withdrawing the proposal as a result of the deadlock, but hoped that progress could be made.

There was a progress report and orientation debate on the proposed directive on equal treatment of persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The UK and other member states (MS) supported the aims of the proposal, however concerns were raised by the UK and a few other MS that some areas of the proposal, particularly those covering education and social protection strayed into the field of MS competence.

The Council adopted conclusions on the review of the implementation by the MS and the EU institutions of the Beijing Platform for Action.

Under any other business, the Italian presidency presented a report of the Rome conference on “Unlocking the potential of the Social Economy for EU Growth”, held in Rome on 17-18 November 2014. The Latvian delegation presented the work programme of its upcoming presidency.