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The EU's Council of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers will meet on 10 March in Brussels.
The meeting will be chaired by Ioannis Vroutsis, Greek Minister of Labour, Social Security and Welfare. The European Commission will be represented by Commissioner Andor.
The Council is due to adopt Conclusions on the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) and to formally adopt the Joint Employment Report (JER) with a new scoreboard of key employment and social indicators.
Commissioner Andor will welcome the adoption of the JER, in particular of the scoreboard of key employment and social indicators, and its analysis which is part of the European Semester for the first time this year.
The Commissioner will underline the on-going severity of the crisis in Europe and will point to the vast divergence amongst Member States, especially in the rates of youth employment, income inequalities and at-risk-of-poverty rates. He will stress the efforts made by Member States to implement the Country Specific Recommendations, as well the shortcomings. With a view to the National Reform Programmes to be submitted in April by Member States, he will reiterate the priorities for employment and social reforms.
Commissioner Andor will thank the 21 Member States that have submitted their Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans as requested by the European Council and will ask all other Member States to finalise theirs as soon as possible. The Commissioner will also report back to the ministers on the initial assessment of the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans and urge Member States to make any necessary adjustments when submitting their National Reform Programmes.
The Council will also discuss how to make the best use of of the financial resources available at EU level, in particular the Youth Employment Initiative (worth 6 billion € over the 2014-2020 period) and the European Social Fund.
The Commission will hold a conference in Brussels on 8th April 2014 to take stock of Member States' progress on implementation of the Youth Guarantee. Youth employment as such remains a priority for the Presidency.
The Council is due to adopt the Quality Framework for Traineeships, an initiative that will enable trainees to acquire high-quality work experience under safe and fair conditions, and to increase their chances of finding a good quality job. The Recommendation is a crucial step in facilitating school to work transitions and making the Youth Guarantee a reality.
Commissioner Andor will welcome the adoption but will express disappointment that the Recommendation is not stronger and more in line with the ambitious proposal presented by the Commission. He will remind Member States that this is a first step and it is now crucial that all ensure the full application of the quality elements by adopting them in their legislation or national practices. The Commission will carefully monitor how the Quality Framework will be implemented further to this Recommendation.
The Council is expected to adopt the Council Regulation on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived without discussion. The Fund (worth 3.5 billion € over the 2014-2020) is intended to both replace and expand on the current EU food aid programme which has been running since 1987.
The general objective of the Fund is to promote social cohesion by contributing towards achieving the Europe 2020 poverty reduction headline target. More specifically, the instrument will aim to alleviate the worst forms of poverty by providing non-financial assistance to the most deprived people.
The Commission has taken a commitment to review the Europe 2020 strategy in 2014.
On 5 March the Commission published a stock-take of progress made by the EU and Member States on meeting their targets under the Europe 2020 strategy (see the communication and a factsheet). Commissioner Andor will present this to the Council and an initial exchange of views is foreseen.
The Council will look at how employment and social targets can be mutually reinforcing, and how youth employment can be strengthened in the Employment Guidelines as part of stronger economic governance.
Commissioner Andor will underline the role of the strategy as a key element for socio-economic convergence in the EU and a long-term plan to exit from the economic crisis. He will stress progress made recently to strengthen the European coordination of policies in both employment and social areas and the upcoming challenge of anchoring Europe 2020 in the economic governance process.
Tripartite Social Summit on Growth and Employment
This will take place on 20 March. It is an important forum of cooperation between the EU institutions and the social partners, whose role within the EU economic governance was stressed in the Commission Communication on a Social Dimension of the EU. It will take place under the banner of Rebuilding confidence in Europe: focus on job creation. Lessons learnt and future orientations. The Commission will underline the importance of involving national social partners in the elaboration and the implementation of national reform plans.
On-going legislative files
Commissioner Andor will congratulate the Greek Presidency for ensuring a provisional agreement with the Parliament - endorsed by the COREPER on 5 March - on the posting of workers Enforcement Directive. He will welcome the compromise text as balanced and giving a clear signal that Europe does not accept fraud or the abuse of the rules at the expense of posted workers, leading to social dumping.
He will also thank the Presidency for their successful negotiations on the Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on enhanced co-operation between Public Employment Services, saying that the adoption of this proposal will send a strong signal that the European Union uses all available tools and networks to fight against unemployment.