Thursday, 27 November 2008

EU employment: Policy coordination and guidelines

The economic recession and the financial crisis threaten the EC (EU) goal of a high level of employment. The focus has shifted from the more or less coordinated national financial rescue packages to efforts to act coherently in the face of the downturn. How European is the response going to be and how much substance will it have?

At the treaty level there are fairly well-oiled procedures in place for the coordination of economic policies and employment policies, but how will the routines adapt to the deteriorating situation?

The European Council and the Council are the main European Union level players coordinating member states’ employment policies. Soft instruments – conclusions, guidelines, recommendations and reports – are used. The member states prepare national plans and annual employment reports. The Commission acts mainly in a supporting role, collating and cajoling.


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Current TEC



The current Article 128 (ex Article 109q) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), under the Title VIII Employment, sets out the choreography for the coordination of member states’ employment policies.

At the summit of these intergovernmental proceedings is the annual spring (March) European Council, dedicated to economic policy and reform issues. The European Council adopts conclusions based on a joint report by the Council and the Commission.

The Council then, after consultations, draws up employment guidelines consistent with the broad economic policy guidelines (BPEGs) for the member states.

Each member state presents an annual report on implementation.

The national reports are examined by the Council, which may make recommendations to the member state.

The Council and the Commission prepare a joint report on the employment situation and the implementation of the employment guidelines.

The existing Article 126 TEC (in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/102–103):

Article 128 TEC

1. The European Council shall each year consider the employment situation in the Community and adopt conclusions thereon, on the basis of a joint annual report by the Council and the Commission.

2. On the basis of the conclusions of the European Council, the Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the Employment Committee referred to in Article 130, shall each year draw up guidelines which the Member States shall take into account in their employment policies. These guidelines shall be consistent with the broad guidelines adopted pursuant to Article 99(2).

3. Each Member State shall provide the Council and the Commission with an annual report on the principal measures taken to implement its employment policy in the light of the guidelines for employment as referred to in paragraph 2.

4. The Council, on the basis of the reports referred to in paragraph 3 and having received the views of the Employment Committee, shall each year carry out an examination of the implementation of the employment policies of the Member States in the light of the guidelines for employment. The Council, acting by a qualified majority on a recommendation from the Commission, may, if it considers it appropriate in the light of that examination, make recommendations to Member States.

5. On the basis of the results of that examination, the Council and the Commission shall make a joint annual report to the European Council on the employment situation in the Community and on the implementation of the guidelines for employment.


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Original Lisbon Treaty


The Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) is still on its rocky road to possible entry into force, but in many instances it is the most up-to-date manifestation of what the member state governments want the treaties to say.

But the treaty reform process, at least since the Treaty of Nice, has been focused on so called institutional innovations. With a few notable exceptions, most areas of Community policy have only been updated and adjusted technically to the different reform treaty versions: the draft Constitution, the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty.

Thus, the changes to the Title on employment in the Lisbon Treaty are minimal. Article 2, point 111 deleted a few words from Article 125 TEC and the following point (112) concerned the common commercial policy.

Consequently, Article 126 TEC and the following ones underwent only horizontal or technical amendments (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/79). In Article 128 the ‘Community’ was replaced by the ‘Union’ and the referrals to other treaty provisions adjusted.



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Renumbering

The Table of equivalences of the original Treaty of Lisbon tells us that Title VIII Employment was to be renumbered Title IX and that Article 128 TEC and TFEU (ToL) was to be renumbered Article 148 TFEU in the consolidated version of the amending treaties (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/214).


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Consolidated Lisbon Treaty



Article 148 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) takes over the contents of the existing Article 128 TEC with the minimal change in terminology and the renumbering noted above.

As a consequence, the consolidated TFEU, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/112, looks like this:

TITLE IX
EMPLOYMENT

Article 148 TFEU
(ex Article 128 TEC)

1. The European Council shall each year consider the employment situation in the Union and adopt conclusions thereon, on the basis of a joint annual report by the Council and the Commission.

2. On the basis of the conclusions of the European Council, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the Employment Committee referred to in Article 150, shall each year draw up guidelines which the Member States shall take into account in their employment policies. These guidelines shall be consistent with the broad guidelines adopted pursuant to Article 121(2).

3. Each Member State shall provide the Council and the Commission with an annual report on the principal measures taken to implement its employment policy in the light of the guidelines for employment as referred to in paragraph 2.

4. The Council, on the basis of the reports referred to in paragraph 3 and having received the views of the Employment Committee, shall each year carry out an examination of the implementation of the employment policies of the Member States in the light of the guidelines for employment. The Council, on a recommendation from the Commission, may, if it considers it appropriate in the light of that examination, make recommendations to Member States.

5. On the basis of the results of that examination, the Council and the Commission shall make a joint annual report to the European Council on the employment situation in the Union and on the implementation of the guidelines for employment.

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Employment policy coordination

Readers interested in the practical side of the European employment strategy can start with the Introduction and the links offered by the European Commission’s DG Employment and Social Affairs:

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/employment_strategy/index_en.htm

Roughly, European Community (European Union) action could be described as a mandatory planning, implementing and evaluating exercise using soft tools like open coordination, ‘best practices’ etc.

Even if the TEC partly reflects different sector views, the practical approach has evolved into a more holistic one knitting together economic, employment, innovation as well as research and education policy issues under the relaunched Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

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European Council Conclusions

The economic and employment guidelines (BEPGs and Employment Guidelines), the main focus of the spring European Council, have been integrated and subsumed under the relaunched Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs, but essentially adopted without change for a second three year period (2008–2010) last spring.

The first ten pages of the revised Presidency Conclusions of the European Council 13–14 March 2008, including the references to the National Reform Programmes and the Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs, are available as a gateway to understanding the system and the state of play (Council document 7652/1/08 REV 1):

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/en/ec/99410.pdf

Cf. Article 128(1) TEC and Article 148(1) TFEU.

Legally, the Council preparing and following up is one Community institution, but a number of Council formations participate directly in the process or at least want to make their views known: ECOFIN, EPSCO, the Competitiveness Council, Education/Training and Youth.

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Joint employment report

The European Council Conclusions are based on the joint annual report by the Council and the Commission, mentioned in paragraphs 1 and 5 of Article 128 TEC and Article 148 TFEU.

The Joint Employment Report 2007/2008 (Council document 7169/08; 16 pages) is a bit more specific than the European Council Conclusions. This latest version is available at:

http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st07/st07169.en08.pdf

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Council employment guidelines

After consulting the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the Employment Committee, the Council adopts annual employment guidelines, based on the European Council Conclusions and a proposal by the Commission. (Cf. paragraph 2 of Article 128 TEC and Article 148 TFEU.)

The Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (Council document of 7 July 2008 10614/2/08 REV 2; 24 pages) is accessible at:

http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st10/st10614-re02.en08.pdf

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National employment reports – National Reform Programmes – Lisbon strategy

Each member state delivers a national employment report annually, as laid out in paragraph 3 of Article 128 TEC and Article 148 TFEU.

At this point in time, the Commission web site has on offer the page Member States’ autumn 2007 reports on the implementation of their National Reform Programmes, with links to the national employment reports. In practice, they are both reporting and planning documents, where the planning part constitutes a development with regard to the treaty provision:

http://ec.europa.eu/growthandjobs/national-dimension/member-states-autumn-2007-reports/index_en.htm

The 2008 round of (Lisbon strategy) progress reports is well advanced, so the interested reader might find more up-to-date information on the National Reform Programmes by checking national government sites. (English translations are or will be available in many member states.)

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Country-specific recommendations

The examination of the national employment reports is a mandatory part of the annual employment coordination cycle, but the Council has the option to issue recommendations to member states. Cf. paragraph 4 of Article 128 TEC and Article 148 TFEU.
Ahead of the spring European Council, the Council addressed the following Country-specific Integrated Recommendations to the European Council (4 March 2008, document 7275/08; 58 pages):

http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st07/st07275.en08.pdf

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Employment in Europe 2008 Report

A separate exercise, but with a wealth of background information, is the Commission’s annual employment report Employment in Europe.

On 18 November 2008 the Commission published its twentieth annual Employment in Europe 2008 Report (292 pages), accessible through:

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=sv&catId=89&newsId=415

According to the Commission, the Employment in Europe 2008 Report addresses topics that are high on the European Union's employment policy agenda. It gives a comprehensive overview of the employment situation in the EU, as well as an analysis of key labour market issues, including immigration, post-enlargement intra-EU labour mobility, quality of work and the link between education and employment.

For a quick overview, read the Commission’s MEMO/08/719 Employment in Europe:

http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/08/719&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

At the publication of the 2008 Employment in Europe Report the Commission highlighted labour immigration into the European Union and mobility of the workforce within the EU, so these questions were reflected in the media reports.



Ralf Grahn