The Commission is launching a discussion on how to render decision-making at EU level more efficient in the social field.
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Most social policy areas, where the EU has powers to act, are already subject to qualified majority voting. This has allowed putting in place a comprehensive social "acquis" over the years, with significant further steps under this Commission.
A very limited number of areas, however, still requires unanimity among EU Member States and special legislative procedures, in which the European Parliament does not have an equal role as the Council as co-decision maker.
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen said: “In their diversity, Member States are ultimately all striving for a fairer society based on equal opportunities and a future-proof social market economy. As the world of work is changing, we need to be able to make full use of the instruments in our toolbox to tackle our shared challenges.”
With this Communication, the Commission is launching a debate on an enhanced use of qualified majority voting in social policy, rendering decision-making more timely, flexible and efficient where an EU competence already exists.
This possibility is provided for in the EU Treaties for several specific areas through so-called 'passerelle clauses'. These clauses allow for a shift from unanimity to qualified majority voting under certain circumstances.
As a first step, looking at the merits and challenges of each case, the Commission proposes to consider the use of the passerelle to facilitate decision-making on non-discrimination. This would help further develop equal protection against discrimination.
The use of the passerelle clause could also be considered in the near future to adopt recommendations in the area of social security and social protection of workers. This would help to guide the process of modernisation of and convergence between social protection systems.