Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

Health (Tuesday 15 June)

Access to medicines and medical devices

Ministers approved conclusions on Access to medicines and medical devices for a Stronger and Resilient EU. Although remarkable results in many disease areas have been made, more needs to be done to ensure a timely access to innovative medicines and medical devices, especially as regards public health concerns such as the development of new antimicrobials. The conclusions call, among other things, on the Commission to develop a full inventory of Europe’s potential and existing global manufacturing capacities for critical medicines, medical devices and other medical products.

This pandemic has again highlighted the triple challenge of accessibility, availability and affordability of medicines. I am glad that ministers came together today for a united call to act on the structural needs and to ensure that timely access to innovative medicines benefits both patients and health systems.

Marta Temido – Minister for Health of Portugal

  • Council conclusions on access to medicines and medical devices for a stronger and resilient EU
Stronger mandate for the European Medicines Agency

The Council reached an agreement on draft rules to reinforce the role of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in crisis preparedness and management for medicinal products and medical devices.

This ‘general approach’ provides the Council presidency with a negotiation mandate to reach a common position with the European Parliament.

European Centre for disease prevention and control and cross-border health threats

The presidency informed ministers about the state of play of two ongoing legislative files: the proposal to amend the regulation establishing a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the proposal on serious cross-border threats to health.

The former is about giving a stronger mandate to the ECDC to be better equipped to support member states and the Commission in – among other things – monitoring in real time the epidemiological situation and mobilising EU Health Task Forces to assist in local responses. A proposed regulation on serious cross-border threats to health prescribes the development of an EU health crisis and pandemic preparedness plan and recommendations for the development of national plans (to be assessed and stress tested).

  • Progress report – Proposal to amend the regulation establishing a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
  • Progress report – Proposal for a regulation on serious cross-border health threats
Infographic – European Child Guarantee: how the EU protects children

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Employment and social affairs (Monday 14 June)

European Child Guarantee

The Council adopted a recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee. The aim of the recommendation is to prevent and combat social exclusion of children by guaranteeing access of children in need to a set of key services, thereby also helping to uphold the rights of the child by combating child poverty and fostering equal opportunities.  

In particular, it is recommended that member states guarantee effective and free access to early childhood education and care, education and school-based activities, at least one healthy meal each school day and healthcare as well as effective access to healthy nutrition and adequate housing.

The 27 should also nominate a national Child Guarantee coordinator and submit to the Commission, within nine months of the adoption of the recommendation, an action plan covering the period until 2030 to implement this recommendation.

This is a victory not only for the Portuguese presidency. It is a victory especially for the 18 million children in the European Union at risk of poverty or social exclusion. It is a victory to guarantee education, childcare, good quality healthcare and decent housing for all children in Europe.

Ana Mendes Godinho – Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security of Portugal

Telework

Since the COVID-19 outbreak there has been a huge increase in the number of people teleworking. According to a Eurofound survey, in July 2020, 34% of respondents were working solely from home, compared to 5.4% of those employed in the EU-27 who worked from home in 2019. The Council adopted conclusions on the issue which highlight that this recent increase in telework makes it necessary to consider the potential, limits and risks of teleworking. The conclusions call on member states, among other things, to consider:

  • establishing national action plans or strategies addressing the opportunities and risks related to telework, taking into account the gender perspective, or including this topic in existing or upcoming strategies
  • amending their policies regulating telework or issuing guidance, for instance with regard to the organisation and monitoring of working time, risks related to equality between women and men, and allowances to cover the costs of teleworking where applicable
  • establishing or reinforcing initiatives to strengthen labour inspection and occupational health and safety in view of the risks arising from telework.

The Council also called on the Commission to analyse the context and implications of telework in the EU and the extent to which current social and labour law in the EU ensures decent working conditions for teleworkers.

Telework has become a normality for millions of Europeans and it will continue as a hybrid model after the pandemic. Workers enjoy the flexibility and autonomy it offers, as well as the time savings, since it makes commuting unnecessary. But let’s not forget the challenges that come with it, such as the blurring of boundaries between work and private life, or the isolation of workers. We approved conclusions today which call on member states to seize the opportunities and address the risks relating to telework in their national strategies and policies for the future of work.

Ana Mendes Godinho – Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security of Portugal

  • Council conclusions on telework
Impact of COVID-19 on gender equality

The Council has approved conclusions which invite member states (and, where appropriate, the Commission) to take steps to mitigate the exacerbating effect of the COVID-19 crisis on some of the long-term disadvantages experienced by women and to ensure that gender equality becomes a driver for recovery.

These steps include:

  • promoting gender equality and equal opportunities in the design and implementation of recovery measures, for instance through the support of workers in hard-hit economic sectors such as retail, hospitality and tourism, addressing particular needs of women with regards to educational attainment, working hours, inactivity, unemployment and skills
  • addressing the reconciliation of work, family and private life for both women and men by ensuring that all workers, including teleworkers, have the same opportunities for career advancement, including equal access to management and decision-making positions
  • promoting equal access to all educational fields and career paths, including addressing the digital gender divide, improving digital skills and participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) study areas, especially ICT
  • developing and disseminating more data disaggregate by sex, information and research on the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality

As a result of pre-existing structural gender inequalities in the labour market and in society as a whole (the gender pay gap and the care gap) women have been and still are affected disproportionately by the COVID-19 pandemic and related containment measures. Women represent between 76% and 95% of healthcare workers and are thus at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Meanwhile, women shoulder a disproportionate share of the unpaid work (domestic and care tasks) that has increased during the COVID-19 crisis.

Like in past crises, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been equal in terms of gender, with women more greatly affected. We see the women affected in the frontline as healthcare workers, carers or childcare workers, as teachers or domestic cleaners, often facing the additional challenges of caring for their families, undertaking additional unpaid work and facing difficulties in their work-life balance. However, we do not have a clear picture of how these effects constrain women’s participation in the labour market and widen existing gaps in pay and care provision, and we can only change what we can see clearly. Now that we are working towards recovery from the crisis and are preparing our societies for the future, we need to ensure our measures are based on concrete data, allowing us to have a clear picture of what we need to change so that we can make informed decisions and correct inequalities.

Mariana Vieira da Silva – Minister of State and the Presidency of Portugal

  • Council conclusions on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on gender equality
Disability strategy

Around 87 million persons in the European Union have some form of disability and more than half of them (52%) feel discriminated against in their daily lives. In March 2021, the European Commission adopted the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2021-2030).

The Council has approved conclusions which endorse the Strategy. The conclusions invite member states to continue developing and updating national strategies and policies to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) at national, regional and local level, ensure the effective and coherent transposition and implementation of EU law on accessibility of products, services, media, transport and buildings, promote the development of person-centered community-based social services and independent living, promote participation in political and public life, taking the Strategy into account when setting voluntary national targets to achieve the proposed headlines targets of the European Pillar of Social Rights action plan and making the best use of appropriate EU funding and financial programmes.

The Portuguese presidency is strongly committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. These conclusions are a great opportunity to put words into action and to ensure we leave no-one behind. As we have been saying, this is the time to deliver, so it is of major importance that we all commit to the European Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030, in line with the UNCRPD.

Ana Mendes Godinho – Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security of Portugal

  • Council conclusions on the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030

Infographic – Advancing a stronger Social Europe

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Adequate minimum wages

The presidency informed ministers about the state of play of the directive on adequate minimum wages. Ministers also had the opportunity to exchange views on the improvements they expect the directive to deliver and to signal what, in their views, are the critical elements of the proposal, thus laying down a possible way forward for further negotiations in view of reaching an agreement.

  • Progress report – Proposal for a directive on adequate minimum wages
Porto Social Summit

The Porto Social Summit of 7 and 8 May 2021 has marked a pivotal moment for social EuropeOn 7 May, the European Parliament, the Commission, the Portuguese EU Council presidency, EU social partners and the Social Platform have signed the Porto Social Commitment and on 8 May, EU Leaders agreed on the Porto Declaration, where they reinforced their commitments to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and welcomed the 2030 headline targets on employment, skills and poverty reduction of the Pillar’s action plan. As a follow-up, ministers discussed the target setting and monitoring of progress achieved in implementing the Pillar’s principles at national level through the European Semester.

Challenges for social dialogue and collective bargaining

Ministers also held a policy debate about the involvement of social partners in the recovery through the Resilience and Recovery Plans (RRPs) and the best approaches to social dialogue and collective bargaining in the context of an acceleration to the digital transition, especially taking into account the need to ensure representation of workers in atypical forms of work and their right of association.

In today’s debate we presented our different experiences; this gave us all the opportunity to share our thoughts on the challenges we will need to address in the short, medium and long term on such important and topical issues.

Ana Mendes Godinho – Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security of Portugal

Pay transparency and equal treatment

The presidency informed ministers about the state of play of a number of ongoing legislative files: a proposal for a directive on strengthening the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women and a Council directive to extend the protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation to areas outside employment. For both proposals the Portuguese presidency presented a report summarising the state of play of the discussions among member states and the possible way forward to reach an agreement

  • Progress report – Directive on binding pay transparency measures
  • Progress report – Council directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment
European Semester, long term care and pensions

The Council endorsed the assessment of the implementation of the 2020 and 2019 Country-Specific Recommendations and the opinion of the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee for a revised Social Scoreboard, setting new headline indicators. Both items relate to the European Semester which is the EU’s framework for the coordination of economic policies across the European Union. Ministers also endorsed the conclusions on a 2021 Long Term Care Report and a 2021 Pension Adequacy Report – both from the Social Protection Committee and the European Commission.

  • Endorsement – European Semester – Assessment of the implementation of the 2020 and relevant 2019 Country-Specific Recommendations – Opinion of the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee
  • Endorsement – European Semester – Opinion of the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee for a revised Social Scoreboard
  • Endorsement – Key conclusions on 2021 Long Term Care Report of the Social Protection Committee and the European Commission
  • Endorsement – Key conclusions on 2021 Pension Adequacy Report of the Social Protection Committee and the European Commission
Meeting information
  • Meeting n°3802
  • Luxembourg
  • 14-15 June 2021
Preparatory documents
  • Provisional agenda
  • List of A items, legislative deliberations
  • List of A items, non-legislative activities
  • Background brief
Outcome documents

Press releases

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