On 19 and 20 June, the Council of ministers agreed to its opinion on the European Semester 2014, first through an opinion of the Council on Social Affairs and then of the Council of Economic and Financial Affairs. It endorsed the Commission’s country-specific recommendations on social policy. Commissioner Andor called for strengthening the framework to fight social exclusion and unemployment. He also urged member states to fully implement pension reforms, as proposed by the Commission. Other reports endorsed are on the consequences of the crisis on health care, a report on long-term care in the EU, the Europe 2020 strategy and minimum income schemes.
Review of 2013 CSRs and European Semester
The Employment Committee of the Council had drafted an examination of the 2014 National Reform Programmes and the 2013 Country-Specific Recommendations, which were then approved by the Social Affairs Council. The main points of the report are:
- Member States have started an ambitious process of labour market reforms, and falling unit-labour costs are encouraging for fostering employment
- However, challenges remain in linking wage levels with changes in productivity. Most notably, wages are lacking behind productivity increases in some member states.
- Efforts to make sure older workers stay longer in the labour market have been stepped up and have noticeable results. Increase in pension ages have to be accompanied by policies to tackle unemployment of older workers.
- There has been only limited progress on the employment of women and also limited step in order to enhance this. More efforts such as the provision of child care are needed.
Conclusions on health
The Council of Ministers on Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers also endorsed conclusions on the consequences of the economic crisis on health. It says that access to health care should be granted universally in order to reduce inequality, that prevention of diseases is essential. THe conclusions deplore that the financial crises and the following budgetary measures have reduced the offer of health care services and that the restrictions in social budgets lead to a rise in health inequalities.
In terms of calls to action, the Council does however not call for a stepping up of financial or logistical efforts in terms of health. It does call for an increased focus on prevention, on more exchange of information on the integration of health care services, on pharmaceutical products and on how to decrease health inequalities.
Report on long-term care
The Council also endorsed the ‘Joint Report on Adequate Social Protection for Long-term Care Needs in an Ageing Society’, focussing on the need and the supply of long term care. The report also focusses on the need for prevention, in order to reduce the risk of older people becoming dependent on long-term care. Also, the Council drew Conclusions on the Economic Crisis and Healthcare
AGE welcomes that the challenge to provide long-term care has been identified by the Council and that more focus is put on the availability of care. However, it is equally important to ensure high standards of care and to encourage a European Quality Framework for Long-Term Care Services, promoting a rights-based approach. The focus on prevention can only be positive.
Other reports assessed in this Council session:
- Social dimension of the Europe 2020 strategy: https://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/14/st10/st10403.en14.pdf
- Minimum income Scheems in the Euro Area: https://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/14/st10/st10407.en14.pdf
For more information, please contact Philippe Seidel at the AGE Secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org