Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Brussels, 13 June 2023

Health, 13 June
Antimicrobial resistance

The Council adopted a recommendation aimed at stepping up EU action to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the fields of human health, animal health and the environment via a “One Health” approach.

The recommendation encourages the prudent use of antimicrobials such as antibiotics in human and animal health to help prevent infection-causing microorganisms from becoming drug resistant.

The measures proposed in the recommendation include targets to reduce antimicrobial use by 2030, strengthening national action plans to monitor antimicrobial consumption (AMC), and awareness raising among health professionals and the general public.

We cannot afford to ignore the deadly threat that drug-resistant microorganisms pose to human health. Tackling antimicrobial resistance has been a key priority for the Swedish presidency and today’s recommendation provides EU countries with the tools to monitor and reduce antimicrobial consumption.

Jakob Forssmed, Swedish Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health

European Medicines Agency (EMA)

Health ministers agreed on the Council’s general approach for a regulation to modernise and simplify the structure of fees payable to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The proposed regulation seeks to ensure that fees charged by EMA are cost-based, as well as to reduce the complexity of the current legal framework.

In order to deliver on its mission of evaluating and supervising medicines, EMA needs a sound financial basis to support its operations. It is also necessary to remunerate in a sustainable manner the fundamental contribution of national competent authorities.

The Council has mandated the presidency to open negotiations with the European Parliament on the basis of the general approach agreed by ministers.

European Health Data Space

Ministers took stock of progress made so far on the regulation to set up a European Health Data Space (EHDS).

The proposed regulation aims to put in place a health-specific data sharing framework that will facilitate the safe exchange of patients’ data while also giving EU citizens control over their health data.

Substances of human origin

Based on a progress report prepared by the Swedish presidency, the Council assessed the state of play of the proposal for a regulation on standards of quality and safety for substances of human origin (SoHO) intended for human application.

The proposed regulation aims to update and expand existing EU legislation on blood, tissues and cells with a view to establishing high standards of quality and safety for SoHOs.

Other business

The presidency and the Commission informed delegations about the negotiations for an international agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response as well as complementary amendments to the International Health Regulation (IHR).

Information was also provided by the Commission on its recently published communication on mental health; by the presidency on relevant conferences that it has organised during the course of its presidency; by the French delegation on the creation of a European day in memory of the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic; and by the upcoming Spanish presidency on its work programme in the field of health. The delegations of Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands provided information on applying a needs-driven approach to pharmaceutical innovation.

Employment and social policy, 12 June
Rights for platform workers

Ministers agreed on the Council’s general approach for a proposed directive to improve working conditions for platform workers, allowing it to start negotiations with the European Parliament.

The platform workers directive has two main goals. Firstly, it aims to determine the correct employment status of people working for digital labour platforms in the EU, some of whom are incorrectly classified as self-employed and should have access to labour and social rights under EU law.

Secondly, the directive seeks to increase transparency around the use of algorithms by digital labour platforms, ensuring human oversight over key decisions affecting workers and protection of their personal data.

Under the Council’s general approach, platform workers who satisfy at least three out of seven criteria will be legally presumed to be employees. Examples of these criteria include limits placed by the platform on a worker’s salary, rules regarding their appearance or conduct, or restrictions on their ability to turn down work from other sources.

In cases where this legal presumption applies, it will be up to the digital platform to demonstrate that no employment relationship exists according to national law and practice.

The gig economy has brought many benefits to our lives, but this must not come at the expense of workers’ rights. The Council’s approach strikes a good balance between protecting workers and providing legal certainty for the platforms that employ them.

Paulina Brandberg, Swedish Minister for Gender Equality and Working Life

Standards for equality bodies

EU employment and social affairs ministers agreed on the Council’s general approaches on two directives aimed at strengthening the functioning of equality bodies in the EU.

The new rules will establish common, EU-wide minimum requirements for equality bodies in a number of key areas, including enhanced competences to combat discrimination, guaranteed independence, and increased powers to conduct inquiries and dispute resolution of discrimination cases.

Limit values for lead and diisocyanates

The Council approved its general approach on an amending directive to set new limits for workplace exposure to lead and its inorganic compounds and diisocyanates.

Prolonged exposure to lead and diisocyanates can significantly impact workers’ health. Lead exposure is known to damage the nervous system, internal organs such as the heart and kidneys, and the reproductive system. Diisocyanates, a group of chemicals that are widely used in industry, are linked to asthma and other respiratory diseases.

The amending directive aims to significantly lower the existing limit values for lead, and introduces limit values for diisocyanates for the first time.

Equal treatment

After taking note of a progress report prepared by the Swedish presidency, ministers held a policy debate on the proposed directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Ministers discussed both ongoing and newly emerging patterns of discrimination in their member states and across the EU as a whole. They also shared their views on the steps that needed to be taken to unblock the negotiations on the equal treatment directive, and suggested concrete solutions for addressing the three main outstanding issues: legal certainty, subsidiarity and implementation costs.

European Semester

Ministers held a policy debate on the European Semester, which is the EU’s framework for coordinating and monitoring economic, fiscal, employment and social policies on an annual basis. The discussion focused on the 2023 European Semester Spring Package and the possible integration of a Social Convergence Framework into the European Semester.

The EPSCO Council also approved the employment and social policy aspects of the country-specific recommendations (CSRs) and endorsed the opinion of the Employment Committee (EMCO) and the Social Protection Committee (SPC) of these CSRs for 2023, as well as their assessment of the implementation of the 2022 recommendations.

The outcome of today’s policy debate will feed into the discussion of heads of state and government at the European Council meeting on 29-30 June.

Strengthening social dialogue

Ministers adopted a recommendation on strengthening social dialogue in the EU. In its recommendation, the Council sets out a number of ways that member states might reinforce social dialogue and collective bargaining at national level, including by involving social partners in policy design, promoting the benefits of social dialogue, and strengthening the capacities of workers and employers’ organisations.

Mainstreaming a gender equality perspective

The Council approved conclusions on mainstreaming a gender equality perspective in policies, programmes, and budgets. The conclusions are based on a report from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), and call for more effective gender mainstreaming in the context of institutional mechanisms, particularly policies, programmes and budgets.

In its conclusions, the Council sets out a number of ways in which member states might increase enhance gender mainstreaming, including adopting national gender equality strategies, promoting the collection of statistical data disaggregated by sex, and ensuring sufficient funding for measures to reduce gender inequalities.

Other business

The Swedish presidency provided information on two current legislative files: the directive on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work, and the revision of the regulations on the coordination of social security systems.

The chair also shared information about relevant conferences organised by Sweden over the course of its presidency.

The upcoming Spanish presidency presented its work programme.

Source – EU Council

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