Coordination of social security systems
The employment and social affairs ministers debated the proposed amendments to the EU Regulation on the coordination of social security systems which were presented in December 2016. The new proposal is intended to update and modernise current provisions in order to improve the mobility of the workforce and ensure that mobile workers are treated fairly.
It is important that the upcoming revision of the Regulation take into consideration recent case law from the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The codification of ECJ case law on access to social services has been welcomed by many Member States.
The Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, emphasised that the revision of the Coordination Regulation should unite Europe and be one of the legislative priorities of the three EU institutions for 2017. With regard to the Brexit negotiations, the Commission has stated that a clause is to be introduced which will nullify all agreements with the UK as soon as the country has left the EU.
The revision also covers long-term care benefits; the EU Commission has proposed defining the concept of long-term care benefits for the purpose of coordination and to make access to these benefits more transparent. The first orientation debate highlighted that further discussions are necessary in some Member States. Thus, changes to long-term care benefits should not result in a broadening of benefits.
In order to combat EU-wide unemployment, the current period for exported unemployment benefits for job seekers should be doubled to six months from the current three months. Council discussions showed that Member States with strong growth tended to oppose an extension of exporting benefits whereas Member States with high unemployment rates are for it.
European Semester 2017
As part of a debate on the European Semester 2017, the ministers discussed how to improve labour market access and reduce differences across the EU. The Council adopted conclusions on the 2017 Annual Growth Survey which predicts moderate economic growth in the EU for 2017.
Safer and healthier working conditions for all
Commissioner Thyssen gave the ministers a presentation about the January communication on creating a “healthy and safe workplace for all” (see also: New initiative from EU Commission to improve OSH). In the initiative, the Commission is committed to modernising measures to fight work-related cancer; helping businesses to comply with existing OSH rules; and placing greater focus on results and less on red tape.
Improving the skills of women and men in the European labour market.
The ministers also discussed the issue of enhancing the skills of women and men in the EU labour market and adopted recommendations and goals. These deal with how and which skills can be enhanced to help men and women succeed in the labour market. It was also pointed out that although women are increasingly well-qualified and now surpass men in Europe in terms of educational attainment they are still paid less for their work.
The next meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 16 June 2017 in Luxembourg under the presidency of Malta
Further information about the EPSCO Council meeting on 3 March 2017. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/epsco/2017/03/03/