The Employment & Social Affairs (EPSCO) Council met in Brussels on 7 March. Shan Morgan, Deputy Permanent Representative, represented the UK.
The Council discussed the implementation of country specific recommendations (CSRs) as part of the European semester. Member states, including the UK, agreed that CSRs should be specific but should take into account the national context, aiming for outcomes not outputs.
As part of the European semester process, Ministers adopted the 2016 Joint Employment report and Council conclusions on the 2016 Annual Growth Survey Council also reached general agreement on the 2016 employment guidelines but the UK maintained a parliamentary scrutiny reservation.
The Commission provided an update on progress following the launch of the New Start for Social Dialogue in March 2015 and the Dutch presidency confirmed that the Tripartite Social summit on 16 March would focus on job creation and inclusive growth.
The Council endorsed the Employment Committee’s key messages on the implementation of the Youth Guarantee.
On the labour mobility package, the Commission confirmed that it would publish its proposal for a revision of the 1996 Posting of Workers directive on 8 March. Proposals on changes to social security co- ordination (regulation 883/04) would not be published until after the UK referendum.
Ministers also had an orientation debate to inform the European Commission’s proposed new agenda for skills.
The presidency presented draft Council conclusions on gender and LGBT equality as a package. Despite strong support from many member states, including the UK Council was unable to reach agreement on the conclusions. The Commission confirmed that it would launch its consultation on a European pillar of social rights on 8 March. The pillar would be targeted at the Eurozone but it would be open to all member states to join voluntarily.
Finally, under any other business, the Commission presented briefly to the Council the energy union, the Istanbul convention and gave an update on the state of play on European social fund and youth employment initiative implementation. The chairs of the Employment and Social Protection Committees also presented their work programmes for 2016.