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Priti Patel - Department for Work and Pensions

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council took place on 5 October 2015 in Luxembourg. Shan Morgan the UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union, represented the UK.

There was a policy debate on social governance. As part of the discussion Vice President Dombrovskis noted the success of the 2015 streamlining of the semester, but outlined that further work was needed to ensure better coordination, increased implementation of country specific recommendations (CSRs) and more ownership of the process. Whilst some Ministers outlined their support for increased social benchmarking within the semester process, others, including the UK, stated that existing indicators in the semester were sufficient and raised concerns at any attempt to introduce common standards across all Member States. The Presidency concluded that there was a clear need for strengthened social governance that respected the treaties, and that it would bring forward council conclusions on that topic in the December EPSCO.

The Commission outlined its proposal for a Council Recommendation on the integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market which all Ministers welcomed, highlighting actions undertaken at national level and reiterating the need for flexibility within the recommendation.

The Presidency sought a general approach on the proposals for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on improving the gender balance among non executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and related measures. The UK had continued to block this and the Presidency withdrew the item due to lack of progress in the negotiations; but committed to return to the issue at the December EPSCO.

The Council adopted the proposal for a council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of Member States. The Chair of the Employment Committee outlined his hope that the revamped European semester would increase the use of the guidelines across Member States.

Two council conclusions on adequate retirement incomes in the context of ageing societies, and a new agenda for health and safety at work to foster better working conditions, were both agreed without discussion.

The Council received information from the Vice President highlighting the actions the Commission was taking to strengthen social dialogue at EU level.

The Presidency provided a short update on the informal meeting of Eurozone only EPSCO Ministers that had preceded Council. He reported that they had discussed deepening the social dimension of the EMU, and that social policy needed to go hand in hand with economic policy with particular attention being paid to the social dimension of further Eurozone integration.

Under any other business, the Commission presented figures on labour mobility. The Commission will present its Labour Mobility Package at the December EPSCO. The Presidency informed the Council about the Conference on Working conditions for tomorrow which had taken place in Luxembourg in September.

 


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