Ladies and gentlemen,
President Juncker announced in his 2018 State of the Union speech that we would take stock of our legal framework on EU decision making.
We have already launched the debate on more efficient decision-making in three areas: taxation policy, foreign affairs and energy policy.
Today we present you the analysis that we have made in the area of social policy.
Social policy is very different from areas such as taxation and foreign policy: most EU legislation in social policy is decided by the European Parliament and the Council, with the Council voting by qualified majority.
That is the legal framework under which this Commission has been particularly active. I will say a few words about this later, including about the proposals that the Parliament adopted today.
There are indeed only five areas where there is still unanimity voting in the social field:
- Non-discrimination law
- Social security and social protection in internal situations (not the social security coordination, for which qualified majority applies)
- Rules on termination of employment contracts
- Representation and collective defence
- Employment conditions for legally residing third country nationals.
We have analysed in which areas a reform of the framework for decision-making is essential for the Union’s capacity to act.
In our view, there are two areas where we wish to open the debate about introducing qualified majority voting.
First, there is the area of non-discrimination. Unanimity voting has led to an uneven development of the EU acquis. We have overall high protection standards, but some groups are not equally protected. Using qualified majority would help develop equal protection against discrimination and also fully involve the Parliament in decision-making on implementing the fundamental right of equal treatment.
The second area for which we propose to move to qualified majority voting is social security and social protection of workers. In the context of changes in the world of work and ageing population, the Union should support the process of modernisation of and convergence between social protection systems.
However, social security is a sensitive area where national systems are very different and we do not want to harmonise national systems. We suggest therefore limiting ourselves to the possibility of adopting recommendations by qualified majority instead of unanimity.
With these targeted and well-founded proposals, we wish to open the debate on making EU decision-making more efficient in social policy.
Coming back now to the existing legal framework for decision-making, allow me to just remind some of the results that this Commission has achieved together with the European Parliament and the Council.
I am indeed very proud to announce today that we have obtained agreements on 24 out of 27 social initiatives that we have proposed since the start of this Juncker Commission.
You know that we have updated the rules on health and safety by updating the protection against cancer. We have been laying down new rules on Work-Life Balance and on accessibility.
Today the European Parliament voted on our initiative to provide for better and timelier social statistics.
This morning also, the Parliament agreed with the Directive that will provide 200 million workers across the EU with transparent and predictable working conditions. We are modernising European labour law and adjusting it to the new world of work.
Finally, the Parliament voted today in favour of the agreement that we found on the European Labour Authority. We have been revising the rules on Posting of Workers and submitted our proposal for a modernisation of the rules on social security coordination. But we also worked towards the effective enforcement of the rules by creating the Union's first operational agency in the area of labour mobility. The European Labour Authority will be there for the 17 million EU citizens that are living or working in another Member State - to ensure that European labour mobility rules are applied in a consistent, thorough and fair manner.
Together with today’s communication on more efficient decision-making, these initiatives demonstrate what this Commission and this Parliament have done during our mandate: bringing Social Europe back at the centre of the Union’s action.