Ministers Smoothing Out Differences at Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Minister for Labour, Employment and Social and Social Economy, Nicolas Schmit, and Social Security Minister Romain Schneider attended the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) in Luxembourg yesterday. 

Ministers discussed the employment and social policy aspects of the 2017 financial year of the European Semester. Minister Romain Schneider welcomed the fact that the Commission considered the messages reiterated by a large majority of member states, as well as by the Employment and Social Protection Committees, that Member States should have the necessary margin of  manoeuvre and political leverage appropriate to their national contexts, to ensure both the viability and the current and future adequacy of pension benefits.

Concerning the European Commission's proposal for the establishment of a European social rights floor Romain Schneider underlined the importance of working towards a coordinated implementation both at national and at European level of measures aimed at achieving the principles relating to income and old-age pensions, as well as all the principles of the foundation. To do this, a rigorous follow-up of social and employment developments is crucial to characterise the evolution of the trajectory towards the principles of the foundation.

Ministers also discussed the state of play of the work on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive. Minister Schmit called for a compromise before the end of the year and to overcome the divisions between the different member states. "It is clear that the posting must be really limited in time, supervised by effective controls and while respecting the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value. To this end, we must also strengthen cooperation between Member States to combat fraud and establish mutual trust," he said during the debate.

The Council also took note of progress reports on the Directive on the accessibility of products and services and on the other on a revised regulation on the coordination of safety systems As well as the guidelines for women on boards of directors and equality of treatment respectively. The Council reached a general approach, a first consensus, on the directive on the protection of workers against carcinogens.

At an informal luncheon, the ministers had the opportunity to discuss the European Commission's proposal for the establishment of a European social rights floor.

At a joint press conference Minister Nicolas Schmit and his Austrian counterpart, Austrian Federal Minister for Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection Alois Stöger called for strengthening the social dimension of the Union European. 

"Today we must give a new impetus to the social dimension of the European Union. The European Social Rights Foundation is an opportunity to return to social convergence. We need an ambitious social action plan based on concrete proposals responding to the challenges of digital transformation, social dialogue and a rebalancing of the European semester”, said Nicolas Schmit about the proposal on the establishment of a European social rights floor.

On the eve of this session of the EPSCO Council, Nicolas Schmit, in his capacity as Chairman of the Socialist and Social Democratic Ministers' Group of the EPSCO Council, chaired a meeting of Socialist and Social-democratic Labour and Employment Ministers devoted to the items on the agenda of the Council.

Image: Ministers Romain Schneider and Nicolas Schmit with Giuliano Poletti, Italy's minister for employment and social policies. © EU