Bismarck's social legislation
When Otto von Bismarck laid the foundations
for social legislation in Germany 140 years ago, he probably did not think that
his "brainchild", German social insurance, would one day fly the flag
in the capital of Europe.
Founding of health insurance
"Law concerning workers health insurance” introduced statutory health
insurance, even though it was only for industrial workers and employees in
craft and trade businesses initially. The focus was on avoiding existential
hardship in the event of an incapacity to work.
Birth of accident insurance
the Accident Insurance Law, workers and low-earning company officials in
certain industrial sectors such as mines, ironworks or the construction
industry were insured against accidents at work for the first time. The second
step was insurance against occupational diseases.
laws covering invalidity and old-age insurance for workers created pension
insurance’s predecessor. Even very low-earning employees could get coverage.
The possibility of voluntary insurance was created for low-income self-employed
Social policy in the EEC
Social and health policy issues were raised
for the first time in the Treaty of Rome that established the European
Economic Community (EEC).
Nevertheless, it has long been said that they had a "socio-political
slant". European social policy has developed from the very beginning in
close connection with the free movement of employees. With priority for
economic policy. This culminated in the 1990s with the Economic and Monetary
Union and the Single Market.
Coordination law, occupational health and occupational safety
Regulation (EEC) No. 3 and its implementing Council Regulation (EEC) No. 4,
based on the 1957 Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers in the
Community, followed one year later. They formed the first two substantive
regulations of "European social law". They would be followed by
others, because coordination law is continuously being developed. The EC was
given the right to support research and cooperation between the member states
in occupational health and occupational
Revising coordination law
(EEC) No. 1408/71 about applying social security schemes to employees and their
families moving within the Community coordinated various member states’ social
security schemes in the European Economic Area as well as Switzerland. It had
considerable significance for the everyday life of EU citizens and it formed
the basis for the introduction of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which replaced the international health insurancecertificate (the E111 form). It expired on 30 April 2010 and was replaced by
Regulation No 883/2004.
First occupational safety und health and directives
Directive 80/1107/EEC of 27 November 1980 about protecting employees from the
risks related to being exposed to chemical, physical and biological agents at
work, the action programme for safety and health at work adopted by the Council
in 1978 was given its first specific implementation. The separate Directive
83/477/EEC of 19 September 1983 about protecting employees from risks related
to being exposed to asbestos at work came into force. It was the second
specific directive about protecting employees from the risks related to being
exposed to chemical, physical and biological agents at work and it was
codified in 2009 after being amended several times.
Single European Act
The Single European Act came
into force on 1 July 1987. It was intended to accelerate the development of the
single market. The Council of Ministers was given the power to adopt decisions
covering health protection in the working world made by qualified majority.
Occupational health and safety framework
Directive 89/391/EEC defined employers'
obligations to improve employees' safety and health at work and it became the
basis for numerous specific directives covering occupational health and safety. Its objective was to reduce the number of occupational accidents and
work-related illnesses. Workers were now obliged to take care of their own
safety and health as well as the safety and health of colleagues within their
means. The Directive was amended several times, most recently in December 2008
by Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008.
European Economic and Monetary Union
member states of theEuropean Economic Community agreed to create the European Economic and Monetary Union
(EMU). It was intended to complement the European single market by establishing
the free movement of capital and a common currency with high price stability.
Signed by the European Council
in Maastricht, the Netherlands, on 7 February 1992, the Maastricht Treaty established the
convergence criteria for joining the EMU and it set upper limits for total and
new debt. The social security budgets were included in this calculation as
parafisci. Recommendations about the convergence of social security systems
followed in the same year. Initially they had no practical implications at all.
Single market and social policy
The single market is considered to be the
heart of the EU. It is the driver of developments such as the free movement of
workers, medicines or medical products, but at the same time it also poses the
danger of giving greater weight to economic opportunities than to
socio-political achievements or standards. It became clearer over time: that a
strong single market needs flanking social policies. The European Pillar of
Social Rights provided a common set of values, the implementation of which has
been successfully demanded time and again.
European single market and health
creation of the European single market resulted in the free movement of goods,
services, capital and labour. A high-level of health protection was also to be
realised by preventing widespread serious diseases through research,
information and health education. The European Commission would promote cooperation between
member states and support them in their actions. Directive 93/42/EEC covering
medical devices was adopted on 14 June.
Centralised pharmaceutical authorisation and Community procedure
part of the overall strategy for a single market for pharmaceutical products, the
"centralised" procedure for medicinal product authorisations was
codified on 1 January 1995 and this resulted in the founding of European
Medicines Agency. Existing Community law was also further developed when the
"mutual recognition" of national marketing authorisations for
medicinal products for both human and veterinary use between member states was
Stability and growth pact
The stability and growth pact
was adopted on 7 July to guarantee sound public finances for the EMU. A debt
ceiling was set at 60 per cent of Gross domestic product (GDP) as well as a
maximum deficit of 3 per cent of GDP.
Open Method of Coordination
European Council meeting that was held in Gothenburg on 15 June agreed to apply
the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) – a form of
intergovernmental policy-making that did not entail binding EU legislative
action being imposed on the pensions sector. Eleven common objectives were set.
Introduction of the euro
The euro was introduced on 1
January as the common official cash currency in twelve member states and three
other countries. It replaced the national currencies at fixed conversion rates.
The world's largest currency changeover was accompanied by unusual price
increases in specific consumption sectors, especially during the first year.
However, the average consumer price increase associated with the introduction
of the new euro only accounted for 0.1 to 0.3 per cent of annual inflation.
Applying the OMC in the
pensions sector lead to the first joint report from the Council and the European Commission
about adequate and sustainable pensions being released on 9 July 2003. The
higher-level objectives of it were that the systems must continue to fulfil
their socio-political tasks, be financially sustainable and take the changing
social requirements into consideration.
Protection against carcinogens or mutagens at work
Directive 90/394/EEC of 28 June
1990 about protecting employees from the risks related to being exposed to
carcinogens at work was codified after several amendments. This Directive has
been amended four times since then. Most recently, in 2022, exposure limits
were introduced or corrected downwards for three more carcinogenic substances.
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which is based in
Stockholm, started its work on 20 May. It was primarily intended to support the
actors in the public health sectors. This European agency was upgraded in the
wake of the Corona pandemic through European Health Union legislation
introduced in early 2022.
The EU Chemicals Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006
came into force on 1 June 2007. The previous Chemicals legislation was
fundamentally harmonised and simplified by it. REACH stands for Registration,
Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. This regulation
has been continuously updated since it came into force. A revision with the aim
of promoting sustainable chemicals, streamlining regulatory processes and
reducing pressure on the environment as well as reducing risks to human health
was announced for the end of 2023.
European Commission presented its proposal for a directive about exercising patients' rights in
cross-border healthcare. This was preceded by various rulings from the European
Court of Justice (ECJ) between 1996 and 2006 about assuming the costs in the
event of cross-border use of health services. The directive about exercising
patients' rights in cross-border healthcare became legally binding in 2011.
reasons of clarity and transparency, Directive 2009/148/EC of 30 November 2009
about protecting employees from the risks related to being exposed to asbestos
at work codified existing legislation about protecting against asbestos. It was
preceded by Directive 83/477/EEC of 19 September 1983, which has been
substantially amended several times.
Coordination of social security schemes
Regulation (EU) 883/2004 about
coordinating social security schemes and its implementing Regulation (EU)
987/2009 applied as of 1 May. They replaced Regulation 1408/71 of 14 June 1971
about applying social security schemes to employees and their families moving
within the Community.Unemployment,
paternity or early retirement benefits would now be provided across borders for
the first time. A new system (EESSI) will be introduced for the electronic
exchanging of social security information.
European Semester was implemented for the first time. It unified economic,
financial, social and employment policy coordination. This process was
initiated annually through the Annual Growth Survey held in November (general
policy guidelines). The process ended in June with the adoption of
country-specific recommendations for each member state.
The European Commission and the Social
Protection Committee published their first report about the adequacy of
pensions. It provided an overview of current pension reforms and analysed the
main challenges to the adequacy of current and future pensions. In contrast to
the OMC, the adequacy report and the sustainability report were now up for
political discussion independently of each other. Adequacy issues were given
more weight again.
Revision of coordination law
December, the European Commission proposed amendments to the regulations about coordinating the
social security schemes. Despite good compromises, especially with regard to
coordinating care benefits, the Council and Parliament became caught up over
questions of applicable law and unemployment benefits. After two failed
trialogues, an end to the dispute is still nowhere in sight in mid-2023.
medical devices directives were given the character of a regulation and this
meant that they became directly applicable law. Regulation (EU) 2017/745 about
medical devices (MDR) and Regulation (EU) 2017/726 about in vitro diagnostic
medical devices (IVDR) emerged. They came into force on 25 May 2017. The
transitional periods were extended at the beginning of 2023 through an
emergency law and a reference to impending shortages. This meant that
significant parts of the new law could still not be applied.
European Pillar of Social Rights
The then 28 member states
proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights in Gothenburg on 17 November.
Through its 20 principles, it forms the guideline for a social Europe and a
congruent approach for a European social policy that does not need the standardisation
of national social protection systems.
Current European health and social policy
The current 9th legislative period is
strongly affected by the Corona pandemic and how it has been managed. The
"European Health Union" is gradually becoming a brand for initiatives
that are broadly designed to increase the EU's crisis resilience to health
threats. Social protection systems are once again proving to be an anchor of
stability in difficult times. Europe continues to address major issues for the
future. The "Green Deal" is beginning to be felt in health and social
European Health Union
With the publication of a
package of three draft regulations, the European Commission responded to the new health threat
situation posed by COVID-19 and is upgrading structurally. The European
Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will be strengthened and the European Commission
will give itself extended rights in the event of crises. Irrespective of this,
a parallel discussion about extended EU competences in health policy was held.
Porto Social Summit
the Social Summit held in Porto on 7 May 2021, member states committed to
implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights’ action plan. For their part,
the social partners also committed to implementing social policy objectives.
One of the objectives is to get at least 78 per cent of adults in the EU into
work by 2030. At least 60 per cent of all adults will be offered training once
European Commission presented their Europe-wide plan to enable platform workers to access social
protection and labour rights. It was intended to create legal certainty for
platform operators and their employees. The aim is to reap the benefits of the
digital transformation and protect the European social market economy.
Health Technology Assessment, Artificial Intelligence
After years of tug-of-war,
Regulation (EU) 2021/2282 about the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) will be
adopted on 15 December. It marks the entry into the Community evaluation of
medicinal products and pharmaceuticals. They complement, but do not replace,
the benefit assessment procedures carried out in many member states. On 21
April, the European Commission also proposed the world's first regulations for artificial
intelligence (AI) through a draft law.
European Health Data Space
3 May, the European Commission presented its ideas for a European Health Data Space (EHDS).
EU-wide digital use of health data should improve medical care, serve
science, promote innovation and support political action. A major challenge
here is ensuring the compatibility of European and national telematics
infrastructures. The specifications must also comply with the strict provisions
of the General Data Protection Regulation.
Amendment Asbestos Directive
its proposal to amend Directive 2009/148/EC about protecting employees from the
risks related to being exposed to asbestos at work from 2009, the European Commission is taking
a further step to improving occupational safety and health. However, the
European Parliament is calling for even stricter requirements.
Future of Social Protection
high-level 12-member group of experts on the future of social protection, which
was established at the end of 2021, presented its report on 7 February. The
effects of demography, digitisation and climate change on social protection
systems were studied. The report lists 21 recommendations for the future
designing and financing of social protection systems. In view of the huge
challenges, it recommended that the revenue base should be broadened and that a
rethink about Maastricht criteria for national debt was needed.
New limit values for lead and diisocyanates
13 February, the European Commission proposed stricter workplace exposure limits for lead. For
the first time, limit values are to be introduced for the diisocyanates
chemical group, which are found in composite materials, amongst others.
Revision of European pharmaceutical legislation
Health Commissioner Stella
Kyriakides let the cat out of the bag on 26 April. The Commission's proposals
for revising European pharmaceutical legislation have met with widespread
criticism. However, the European Commission is talking about a concerted balancing act.
It has had an easier time with its proposal to combat antimicrobial resistance.
The countries are going with it. A Council recommendation regarding this will
be decided in the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) on 13 June.