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COUNCIL OF
THE EUROPEAN UNION





EN

C/05/38

Brussels, 3 March 2005

6479/05 (Presse 38)

PRESS RELEASE

2644th Council meeting


Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs
Brussels, 3 March 2005


President Mr François BILTGEN
Minister for Labour and Employment, Minister for Culture, Higher Education and Research, Minister for Religious Affairs
Ms Marie-Josée JACOBS
Minister for the Family and Integration, Minister for Equal Opportunities
Mr Mars DI BARTOLOMEO
Minister for Health and Social Security

of Luxembourg



Main results of the Council

The Council adopted a set of key messages for the Spring European Council, with a view to the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy.

It agreed on a (partial) general approach on the draft Decision establishing a Community programme for employment and social solidarity (PROGRESS) and also adopted conclusions on the social dimension of globalisation.

CONTENTS1

PARTICIPANTS 4

ITEMS DEBATED

PREPARATION FOR THE SPRING EUROPEAN COUNCIL MEETING 6

– Key messages for the mid term review of the Lisbon strategy 6

– Joint reports on employment and on social policy 8

PREPARATION OF THE TRIPARTITE SOCIAL SUMMIT 9

WORK PROGRAMMES OF THE EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL PROTECTION COMMITTEES 9

SOCIAL DIMENSION OF GLOBALISATION – Council conclusions 9

COMMUNITY PROGRAMME FOR EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL SOLIDARITY (PROGRESS) 12

ORGANISATION OF WORKING TIME 12

COORDINATION OF SOCIAL SECURITY SCHEMES (MISCELLANOUS AMENDMENTS 2004) 13

PRIVATE PENSION SCHEMES 13

MISCELLANEOUS 13



OTHER ITEMS APPROVED

TRADE POLICY

Vietnam - Agreement on market access* 14

MIGRATION

Albania and Sri Lanka - Agreements on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation 14

PARTICIPANTS

The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:



Belgium:

Ms Freya VAN DEN BOSSCHE Minister for Employment



Czech Republic:

Mr Čestmír SAJDA Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, Department of the Deputy Minister for the European Union and International Relations



Denmark:

Mr Claus Hjort FREDERIKSEN Minister for Employment



Germany:

Mr Gert ANDRES Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Labour



Estonia:

Mr Marko POMERANTS Minister for Social Affairs



Greece:

Mr Panos PANAGIOTOPOULOS Minister for Employment and Social Protection



Spain:

Mr Jesús CALDERA SÁNCHEZ-CAPITÁN Minister for Labour and Social Affairs



France:

M. Gérard LARCHER Minister with responsibility for Labour Relations, attached to the Minister for Employment, Labour and Social Cohesion



Ireland:

Mr Tony KILLEEN Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (with special responsibility for Labour Affairs including Training)



Italy:

Mr Roberto MARONI Minister for Labour and Social Policy



Cyprus:

Mr Christos TALIADOROS Minister for Labour and Social Insurance



Latvia:

Mr Dagnija STAĶE Minister for Welfare



Lithuania:

Mr Romas ŠVEDAS Deputy Permanent Representative



Luxembourg:

Mr François BILTGEN Minister for Labour and Employment, Minister for Culture, Higher Education and Research, Minister for Religious Affairs

Ms Marie-Josée JACOBS Minister for the Family and Integration, Minister for Equal Opportunities

Mr Mars DI BARTOLOMEO Minister for Health and Social Security



Hungary:

Ms Kinga GÖNCZ Minister for Youth, Family and Equal Opportunities

Mr Gábor CSIZMÁR Minister for Labour and Employment

Malta:

Mr Theresa CUTAJAR Deputy Permanent Representative



Netherlands:

Mr Henk van HOOF State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment



Austria:

Mr Martin BARTENSTEIN Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Labour



Poland:

Mr Rafał BANIAK Deputy State Secretary, Ministry of Social Policy



Portugal:

Mr Luís Miguel PAIS ANTUNES State Secretary for Work, attached to the Minister for Economic Activities and Work



Slovenia:

Mr Janez DROBNIČ Minister for Labour, the Family and Social Affairs



Slovakia:

Mr Ľudovít KANÍK Minister for Labour, Social Affairs and the Family



Finland:

Ms Tarja FILATOV Minister for Labour



Sweden:

Mr Hans KARLSSON Minister at the Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communications, with responsibility for Working Life



United Kingdom:

Mr Chris POND Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions



Commission:

Mr Vladimír ŠPIDLA Member



ITEMS DEBATED

PREPARATION FOR THE SPRING EUROPEAN COUNCIL MEETING

  • Key messages for the mid term review of the Lisbon strategy

The next European Council meeting, to be held in Brussels on 22 and 23 March 2005, will be largely devoted to the mid term review of the Lisbon Strategy1.

In preparation for that review, the EPSCO Council held a discussion with the intention of defining its contribution to the European Council meeting in the fields of employment, social policy and equal opportunity. That discussion was based on the following documents:



  • the Commission's summary report to the spring European Council: "Working together for growth and jobs - A new start for the Lisbon Strategy" (5990/05);

  • the Commission communication on the Social Agenda (6370/05);

  • the draft Joint Employment Report 2004/2005 (6773/05);

  • the draft Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion (6774/05);

  • the Commission report on equality between women and men 2005 (6367/05).

In the framework of that discussion, the Presidency invited delegations to express their views on, inter alia:

  • analysis of the challenges as set out in the abovementioned documents;

  • the solutions proposed for the response to those challenges;

  • adapting the tools and instruments proposed for the relaunch of the Lisbon Strategy;

  • the role of the Social Agenda as the social pillar of the Lisbon Strategy;

  • the role and responsibility of the Council in its EPSCO formation, within the framework of that strategy.

On the conclusion of the discussion, the President stressed that the Council felt that, in order to deal with the major challenges confronting the European Union today, it was necessary to stress economic growth and job creation without, however, neglecting to provide a framework of action on social protection and inclusion. For the Council, the social agenda submitted by the Commission was an integral part of the Lisbon Strategy. It also recalled that, in its EPSCO formation, the Council had a central rôle to play in monitoring that strategy.

Those conclusions will be reflected in the letter which the President of the Council will forward to the President of the spring European Council to accompany a series of key messages that the Council has adopted, on the basis of the joint draft prepared by the Committees on Employment and Social Protection (6542/1/05).

In those key messages the Council points out that the review of the Lisbon Strategy must confirm the interaction between policies on economic growth, quality job creation, the modernisation of social protection and the promotion of sustainable development, which reinforce each other.

In addition, the Council feels that the recent strategy on economic growth and job creation must be combined with the promotion of social and environmental objectives within the framework of the general sustainable development strategy.

It also confirmed that the open method of coordination, which will have to be rationalised, must reinforce the Lisbon Strategy and continue to achieve its objectives.

The Council also pointed to the central role of its EPSCO formation in monitoring progress in the social, employment and equal opportunities fields. It also stressed that if the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy were to be achieved, full use must be made of the EU's financial instruments, in particular the European Social Fund and the new programme for employment and social solidarity2.

The Council approved the approach based on partnership intended to mobilise all those involved, and the simplification and rationalisation of aspects related to governance.

The Council feels that the employment aspect of the Lisbon Strategy must concentrate on the following four action priorities:



  • attracting more people to and keeping them on the labour market;

  • increasing the adaptive capacities of workers and undertakings;

  • investing more, and more effectively, in human capital and making lifelong education and training a reality;

  • ensuring the effective implementation of reforms through better governance.

As regards social protection, the Council feels that the lengthening of working life and increasing the rate of employment are still fundamental objectives.

Social inclusion measures must essentially aim at combating the deep causes of poverty and exclusion, and priority actions must include:



  • the prevention of child poverty;

  • supporting the caring capacity of families;

  • promoting the equality of men and women and reconciling work and family life;

  • the improvement of social services;

  • treatment of the phenomenon of homelessness;

  • the development of new approaches to the integration of ethnic minorities and immigrants.

Finally, the Council welcomes the measures that the Commission plans to propose in the framework of a European Youth Pact and its intention of defining the role and the characteristics of general interest social services.

  • Joint reports on employment and on social policy

The Council adopted the joint 2005 reports by the Council and the Commission on employment and social protection and inclusion (6773/05 and 6774/05).

Those two reports, which will be submitted to the spring European Council, take stock of progress made and of that still to be made on the achievement of the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy.

For the first time the joint report on employment includes an analysis of the twenty five Member States' application of the Council's 2004 Employment Guidelines and Recommendations, which aimed at achieving the objectives of full employment, quality and productivity of work, and social cohesion and inclusion.

It is intended to sustain the European Council's conclusions, on which the 2005 Employment Guidelines will be based3.

The joint report on social protection and inclusion is a balanced and integrated picture of the main challenges facing Member States in the achievement of the Lisbon objectives.

For the first time it brings together in a single report fields covered by the open coordination method, such as social protection and inclusion and pensions, which have until now been the subject of separate reports.

This report recommends that an effort be made to modernise social protection systems by means of resolute and credible reform strategies.

***


In addition, the Council took note of:

  • the Commission's summary report to the Spring European Council;

  • the communication on the Social Agenda 2006 2010;

  • the Commission's second report to the Spring European Council on developments towards gender equality4.

PREPARATION OF THE TRIPARTITE SOCIAL SUMMIT

As part of the preparation of the spring European Council, the Council also held an exchange of views concerning the preparation of the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment to be held in Brussels on 22 March, prior to the spring European Council.

The main topic of this year's meeting will be the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy. It is probable that emphasis will be laid on the aspects concerning governance, and particularly those relating to the role of the social partners in implementing the Strategy.

The task of the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment, which was established by Decision 2003/174/EC5, is to ensure that there is a continuous social dialogue between the Council, the Commission and the social partners at the highest level.

The troika (the current and two subsequent Presidencies) of the Heads of State or Government and of Ministers for Employment, the President of the Commission, the Commissioner responsible for social affairs and the delegations of the social partners meet before each spring European Council to examine the components of the integrated economic and social strategy, launched by the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, supplemented by its sustainable development dimension since the Göteborg European Council (June 2001).

WORK PROGRAMMES OF THE EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL PROTECTION COMMITTEES

The Council took note of the work programmes of the Employment Committee and of the Social Protection Committee for 2005.



SOCIAL DIMENSION OF GLOBALISATION – Council conclusions

The Council adopted the following conclusions:

"The Council,

Having regard to the Report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation, established by the International Labour Organisation, "A fair globalisation, creating opportunities for all" launched in February 2004,

Having regard to the Communication of the Commission "The Social Dimension of Globalisation - the EU policy contribution on extending the benefits to all"6,

Whereas the European Union is based on values of democracy, respect of human rights, equal opportunities and social justice,

Whereas the promotion of the external dimension of EU employment and social policy is an important component of its Social Policy Agenda,

Whereas, at the meeting of the European Council of 16-17 December 2004, the EU Heads of State and Government underlined the importance of strengthening the social dimension of globalisation in the light of the World Commission Report and the proposals of the Commission's Communication (§ 53 of the Presidency Conclusions),



Whereas the international community welcomed the World Commission Report and expressed its support to a follow-up for this Report, in particular at the 289th and 291st sessions of the ILO Governing Body in March and November 2004, the 92nd session of the International Labour Conference in June 2004 and in the Resolution A/RES/59/57 adopted by the 59th session of the UN General Assembly in December 2004,

  1. UNDERLINES that the process of globalisation has brought significant benefits to many people in the world but that these benefits are not shared equally across all countries and groups; NOTES the gender dimension of such inequality;

  2. HIGHLIGHTS the need for an effective and transparent global governance of the process to prevent unbalanced outcomes and to promote sustainable development towards a fully inclusive and equitable globalisation;

  3. HIGHLIGHTS that better management of globalisation calls for action by developed countries and by developing countries as well as by international organisations;

  4. UNDERLINES that the EU must conduct its internal and external policies in a consistent way thus contributing to maximising the benefits and minimising the costs of globalisation for all groups and countries, both inside and outside of the EU;

  5. RECALLS that the EU has gradually developed policies which have proved their worth, both at home and internationally, which seek to ensure that economic and social progress go hand in hand; HIGHLIGHTS in particular the relevance in this respect of the Lisbon strategy and its set of mutually reinforcing policies to promote competitiveness, employment, social cohesion and a sustainable environment, thus promoting greater policy coherence;

  6. HIGHLIGHTS the importance of social partners' organisations and civil society organisations mobilising actors with a view to better addressing the social dimension of globalisation, both within and outside the EU;

  7. EMPHASISES the role of the social partners in better managing the continuing process of restructuring driven by globalisation;

  8. WELCOMES the interest of the World Commission in the EU model of development, and in particular the Lisbon strategy, which is based on integrated policies aiming at economic performance, investment in human capital and social cohesion, the quality of work, a high level of social protection and the role of the social dialogue;

  9. HIGHLIGHTS the importance that the World Commission attaches to promoting regional integration across the world and to incorporating a social dimension in the process of regional integration;

  10. RECALLS its commitment to promoting core labour standards and to improving social governance in the context of globalisation, including within the framework of its existing trade policies and initiatives, as emphasized by the Council Conclusions of 21 July 2003;

  11. NOTES that the Doha Development Agenda offers a unique opportunity to contribute to social development goals by fostering growth, combating poverty, creating employment, and raising living standards; HIGHLIGHTS the need for social development aspects to be duly reflected in the EU's negotiation positions;

  12. RECOGNISES the need for an integrated approach to trade policy and social development in particular the need to strengthen the sustainable development dimension of bilateral trade agreements and to continue to pursue the promotion of core labour standards in bilateral agreements, accompanied by Sustainability Impact Assessments (SIAs) and assisted by appropriate donor support; NOTES the importance of the revision of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in this context;

  13. WELCOMES the efforts to promote corporate social responsibility, taking into account internationally agreed standards; ENCOURAGES the private sector to contribute to corporate social responsibility initiatives and tools that can be a powerful and complementary means of fostering fair globalisation;

  14. EMPHASISES the need to improve efficiency and transparency of labour markets and to promote decent work for all across the world in line with the ILO Decent Work Strategy as a means for achieving equitable, inclusive and sustainable development and eradicating poverty in the interests of economic and social progress; STRESSES the need to address migration issues within this framework;

  15. STRESSES the need for increased efforts, by the EU and others, to ensure effective policy coherence between the international institutions; ENCOURAGES, in particular, the dialogue and cooperation between the World Trade Organisation, the Bretton Woods institutions and the International Labour Organisation aimed at promoting decent work for all;

  16. ENCOURAGES all other international organisations to cooperate towards promoting decent work for all as a useful means of ensuring that there is coherence with regard to fostering economic growth, employment and social governance in the context of globalisation;

  17. UNDERLINES the importance of promoting decent work for all in EU relations and cooperation programmes with third countries and regions;

  18. SUPPORTS the incorporation of the promotion of decent work as a global goal to be considered within the comprehensive review of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals to be undertaken in 2005;

  19. STRESSES the importance of the World Commission Report for the ongoing work at international level on social issues, in particular the follow-up to the World Summit on Social Development , the Fourth World Conference on Women Rights, and the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations;

  20. INVITES the Commission to report on a regular basis on the follow-up of such ongoing work."

COMMUNITY PROGRAMME FOR EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL SOLIDARITY (PROGRESS)

Pending the European Parliament's opinion, the Council reached, by a qualified majority7, a partial general approach on a draft Decision establishing a Community programme for employment and social solidarity (PROGRESS).

The "partial" nature of this approach is due to the fact that the budgetary aspects have not been discussed, and remain in abeyance until the future Community financial framework has been defined (2007/2013 financial perspective). Consequently, Article 17 of the Commission proposal (11949/04) does not form part of the agreed text.

The aim of this programme is to financially support the implementation of the objectives of the European Union in the employment and social affairs area and thereby contribute to the achievement of the Lisbon Strategy.

It comprises five sections: employment, social protection and inclusion, working conditions, anti discrimination and diversity and gender equality. By consolidating them, it will replace the four specific action programmes currently in place in order to ensure achievement of these objectives.

ORGANISATION OF WORKING TIME

Pending the European Parliament's opinion, the Council was briefed by the Presidency on progress of work on the draft Directive amending Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time.

The draft Directive was discussed in detail in the Council meeting on 7 December 2004, when a degree of consensus was noted concerning the extension of the reference period for calculating the maximum weekly working time and the provisions on on-call time and compensatory rest (see press release 15140/04).

The main issue still outstanding is that of the conditions for applying the option of derogating from the provisions concerning maximum weekly working hours (opt-out).

The Presidency summarised the state of play in the technical discussions which had been in progress since the beginning of the year with regard to recourse to an opt-out.

The main amendments which the proposal for a Directive (12683/04) intends to make to Directive 2003/88/EC relate to:



  • the reference period for calculating the maximum weekly working time8;

  • the definition of working time: the introduction the definitions of "on-call time" and "inactive part of on-call time";

  • the conditions for the application of the option of derogating from the provisions concerning maximum weekly working hours (opt-out).

COORDINATION OF SOCIAL SECURITY SCHEMES (MISCELLANOUS AMENDMENTS 2004)

Pending the European Parliament's opinion, the Council noted virtual agreement as to substance concerning a draft Regulation amending Regulations Nos 1408/71 and 574/72 on the application of national social security schemes to persons moving within the EU (miscellaneous amendments 2004) (6801/05 + ADD 1).

The draft Regulation aims to update those two Regulations to take account of changes in national legislation, in particular in the new Member States since the end of the accession negotiations.

Its purpose is also to complete the simplification of procedures on receiving medical care abroad introduced by Regulation (EC) 631/20049 by extending some of those modifications to the identical procedures regarding benefits for accidents at work and occupational diseases.



PRIVATE PENSION SCHEMES

The Chairman of the Social Protection Committee submitted to the Council an analysis of private retirement pension schemes.

The analysis focuses on the current and future role of private pension schemes in Member States' systems of retirement provision, and their potential contribution to reinforcing the financial sustainability of such systems.

The schemes studied were, primarily, mandatory schemes administered by private-sector institutions, individual job-related schemes and schemes based on individual contracts with insurance or retirement savings companies.



MISCELLANEOUS

  • Green Paper on an EU approach to managing economic migration (6806/05)

While commending the Commission's initiative, the Czech, Swedish and Slovak delegations expressed their interest in discussing this issue at a forthcoming Council meeting (EPSCO).

OTHER ITEMS APPROVED

TRADE POLICY

Vietnam - Agreement on market access*

The Council adopted a Decision approving the conclusion of an Agreement on market access between the EU and Vietnam (6121/05, 6271/05).

The Agreement concerns the early implementation of market access commitments entered into by Vietnam in connection with its accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The Agreement specifies, inter alia, the following commitments on the part of Vietnam:



  • to reduce its tariff rate on thread imported from the EU to 5%

  • to reduce its tariff rate on wines and spirits imported from the EU to 65%

  • to grant EU investors and service providers treatment no less favourable than that accorded to US and Japanese investors and service suppliers as provided for in the bilateral agreements between Vietnam and those two countries.

Vietnam will adopt trade liberalisation measures in other sectors: production of cement and clinker, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, information technology and construction.

In exchange, the EU will suspend the textile and clothing quotas imposed on Vietnam so that it enjoys treatment equivalent to that already granted to existing members of the WTO, and identical conditions of competition. The Agreement contains provisions under which the EU may reapply the quotas if Vietnam fails to fulfil its obligations.

The Agreement will expire on the date of Vietnam's accession to the WTO.

MIGRATION

Albania and Sri Lanka - Agreements on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation

The Council adopted Decisions approving the signing of an Agreement with Albania and the conclusion of an Agreement with Sri Lanka on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation. Both Agreements aim at combating illegal immigration more effectively (5614/05 and 10666/03).

Each of the two countries undertakes to readmit to its territory, at the request of an EU Member State and without further formalities other than those stipulated in the Agreement, any national of these countries who does not fulfil the conditions in force for entry into or residence in the territory of the requesting Member State.

Each Agreement provides for the creation of a joint readmission committee responsible for monitoring the correct application of the Agreement.



1The European Council in Lisbon in March 2000 adopted the strategic objective for the Union of becoming by 2010 the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion (100/1/00).
The European Council in Göteborg in June 2001 adopted the Sustainable Development Strategy (with its environmental dimension) which was added to those objectives (200/1/01). The Lisbon strategy now has three aspects: economic, social and environmental.

2See page 18 of this press release.

3Under the heading "Employment", Article 125 of the Treaty provides that the Member States and the Community are to work towards developing a coordinated strategy for employment, the objectives of which it defines. The joint employment report, the recommendations to the Member States and the annual employment guidelines are all components of the European Employment Strategy (EES) launched by the European Council meeting in Luxembourg in November 1997.
The annual EES procedure is defined in Article 128 of the Treaty:
On the basis of a joint annual report by the Council and the Commission, the European Council shall each year consider the employment situation in the Community and adopt conclusions thereon. On the basis of those conclusions, the Council shall each year draw up guidelines which the Member States shall take into account in their employment policies. The Member States shall provide the Council and the Commission with annual national reports on the principal measures taken in the light of those guidelines. On the basis of those reports, the Council shall each year carry out an examination of the implementation of the employment policies of the Member States, and it may make recommendations to Member States. In addition, on the basis of the results of that examination, the Council and the Commission shall make a joint annual report to the European Council on the employment situation in the Community.
Since 1997 the EES has been reinforced by initiatives taken at spring European Council meetings. At present, within the framework of a three year cycle, the EES has three general objectives: full employment, quality and productivity at work, cohesion and an inclusive labour market.

4 Submitted by the Commission in response to the instructions given by the European Council meeting in March 2003 (see 8410/03, section 47).

5OJ L 70, 14.3.2003, p. 31.

69824/04 SOC 269 WTO 62 COMPET 82 - COM(2004) 383 final.

7The German, French and United Kingdom delegations upheld parliamentary scrutiny reservations at this stage.

8 Directive 93/104/EC specifies not an absolute limit for maximum weekly working time, but an average to be calculated over a reference period.

9OJ L 100, 6.4.2004, p. 1.

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6479/05 (Presse 38)



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