Germany's 2020 Council Presidency - Assessment from the perspective of the German Pension Insurance Association.

IF – 12/2020

Germany took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Croatia on the 1st July 2020 along with the major challenges that the EU faced this year. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, social and healthcare policy issues have become increasingly important across Europe.

Under the motto "Together - Making Europe strong again", Germany has - during its Council Presidency - set itself the goal of strengthening social cohesion and working to ensure that Europe emerges stronger from the crisis. The Council Presidency will be transferred to Portugal on the 1st January 2021.

What is the result a few days after the last European Council under Germany’s Presidency? The European representative from the German Social Insurance spoke about this with Gundula Roßbach, President of the German Pension Insurance Association.

What were your political expectations for Germany’s Council Presidency? To what extent have these been fulfilled in your view?

Germany has assumed the presidency at a time of extreme challenges. Measures had to be taken to overcome the coronavirus crisis and set the course for the basic transformation processes such as the ecological and digital changes. On Brexit, solutions are still being wrestled for right to the end. The social aspect was not neglected, quite the contrary: during the preparations for Germany's Council Presidency, the social dimension of Europe was kept in focus with topics such as minimum wages and minimum security, global supply chains, the new working world and the rights of seasonal workers.

Germany's Council Presidency has provided important impulses with the legislative acts presented or announced by the Commission and the conclusions adopted by the Council. Social Europe then received a whole new boost against the background of the pandemic. It has become clear that efficient and reliable social security systems are indispensable with regard to overcoming the crisis. Economic recovery and social cohesion are needed hand-in-hand to overcome the effects of the pandemic.

In your opinion, which topics have been neglected and should have been promoted more strongly?

We can be quite satisfied with what has been achieved during Germany's Council Presidency. More recently, the agreement reached by EU leaders on the next multi-annual financial framework and the reconstruction plan also laid the financial foundations for a way out of the crisis, whilst strengthening fundamental democratic values.

Many of the issues on the political agenda - including digitalisation and climate targets - need a long-term approach anyway, short-term alone won't help. The trio-presidency also takes this into account. The trio-presidencies began, together with the subsequent presidencies of Portugal and Slovenia at the same time as Germany's Council Presidency. The jointly agreed Trio programme covers the period up to the end of 2021. This also provides continuity for the view of a social Europe.

What do you expect from Portugal's Council Presidency? Are there any topics that you think should be given special attention?

Important topics during Portugal's Council Presidency will be the announced Green Paper on Ageing and the presentation of an action plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The importance of the pillar as a policy management tool will continue to increase in the context of the reconstruction measures. However, it is also causes tension with Member States' competences in the social field. This will require attention.

In Germany, the pension insurance scheme deals with the access of self-employed persons to old-age insurance. One aspect of this is the digital working world, which has long since become part of our everyday lives. It also raises the question of how the new forms of work around the internationally established platforms can be integrated into the social security system. Therefore, the legislative proposal to be announced by the Commission on better working conditions and more social protection in the platform economy is eagerly awaited. The considerations covering the introduction of a European reporting system for platform data should also be seen in this context.