The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 15th June 2017 in Luxembourg. I represented the UK.
The Council concluded the annual European Semester process; Ministers approved the Council Recommendation on the National Reform Programmes, endorsed the Country Specific Recommendations and endorsed the Employment Committee opinion on the labour market integration of refugees. In the table round, in line with all Ministers, the UK welcomed the continuous improvements in the Semester process.
The Council received a progress report on revisions to the Posting of Workers Directive. The common theme in interventions was the need for European unity and to build citizens' confidence in the EU. However, Member States expressed different views for achieving that, reflecting a broader debate on the balance between the social dimension of the EU and the single market.
Ministers discussed the European Pillar of Social Rights over lunch. The Presidency provided an oral report to Council afterwards, citing agreement that there should be flexibility about the process for the proposed joint proclamation on the Pillar.
The Council took note of a progress report on the revision of EU Social Security Coordination Regulation 883. The Presidency outlined how close they thought the Council was to agreement. The European Commission reiterated that this whole file should be concluded in this European Parliament. Supported by Germany, the UK stressed the importance of full codification of case law and of striking a balance on applicable legislation.
Progress reports on the Anti-Discrimination Directive, Women on Boards and the European Accessibility Act were noted without comment from delegations. The Council also adopted Council Conclusions on Making Work Pay and the European Court of Auditors’ Report on the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment initiative.
The Council agreed a General Approach on the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (second batch of substances). Alongside other Member States, the UK emphasised the importance of protecting workers and that the revision should therefore be based on scientific and social partner advice. On polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the Presidency’s text strayed from that advice, such that the UK abstained.
Under any other business, Sweden raised pharmaceuticals and the environment. The Commission stated it will publish policy options on these in early 2018, including a new Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Action Plan. The UK spoke on the importance of action on AMR in different sectors and following up on progress made through other global fora. The UK also welcomed work through the G7 and G20 particularly with regard to research into new antibiotics, vaccines and diagnostics. Estonia outlined the priorities for its upcoming Presidency, to include tackling harmful use of alcohol; opportunities through digital innovation in health; and tackling AMR.