In March 2018, the European Commission presented its Social Justice Package, which included a proposed Regulation for establishing a European Labour Office (ELA) (see recent article from March 2018). Since then, many have called into question the vagueness of its intended responsibilities. The added value of setting up an ELA still seems unclear to many MEPs, various authorities and other stakeholders.
The rapporteur for the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs pointed out in his June report that the ELA’s operational mandate should have a clear focus on legal enforcement, and that it should have sufficient competences and powers to achieve its objectives. The voluntary participation by national authorities, as proposed by the Commission, is not sufficient to achieve this objective. The ELA should not become a ‘toothless tiger’.
However, in its Response (available in german language only) to a parliamentary question from various members of the FDP fraction on the ELA regarding cooperation and the exchange of information between national authorities, the German Federal Government emphasised the need to ensure that Member States’ competences are respected. National authorities must continue to monitor compliance with rules on the protection of posted and mobile workers, and impose sanctions in case of infringements. At the same time, duplicating established processes, authorities and existing legal acts should be avoided.
In terms of possible transgressions of competences, the Bundesrat also pointed out in its Decision (available in german language only) on the proposal for a Regulation that the duties and powers of the ELA should be clearly defined and that the added value of a supranational EU authority should be carefully assessed, especially given that there are institutions and bodies which already exist at EU level.
In its reasoned opinion on subsidiarity, the Swedish Parliament rebuked the Commission’s proposal for not showing the added value of a new authority. There are already established structures at both national and EU level to deal with the issues that the Authority aims to address.
Comments from the German Social Insurance
The umbrella associations of Germany’s social insurance system have actively participated in the current discussion on the European Labour Office by publishing comments. They welcome the Commission’s intention to support fair labour mobility. However, as far as the structures of social security coordination are concerned, the German Social Insurance believes that the planned reorganisation and delegation of tasks to the ELA does not add to this objective.
The existing structures of the Administrative Commission for the Coordination of Social Security Systems and its affiliated bodies, which have been accepted by the Member States, are to be dissolved and most tasks transferred to the ELA, without any added value coming from this. There is uncertainty about the specific tasks of the proposed authority and the structures to be established under its roof. The only thing that seems clear is that the ELA is to be granted significant discretion in assessing which working groups and expert committees should be deployed.
In the opinion of the German Social Insurance, dividing committees and operational tasks between the ELA and the Administrative Commission does not take into account the synergies that arise from the Administrative Commission uniformly carrying out various tasks, and the need to incorporate national specificities into affiliated committees.
For example, in terms of the Administrative Commission’s Audit Board and Technical Commission for data processing, it is unclear whether such bodies would be set up by ELA and how they would be filled. The current wording of the proposal for a Regulation does not make it clear whether the know-how of technical experts from the national liaison offices will still be taken into account.
There are fears that the proposal for a Regulation would result in a loss of the growing trust and cooperation in the Administrative Commission and its affiliated bodies, as well as the expertise of national liaison officers.
The decision by the Committee for Employment and Social Affairs is still pending. The Council also has yet to show a clear direction. According to the Commission, the Authority should start operating in 2019.