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.