Saturday, 13 December 2008

EU: European Social Fund Committee

The European Social Fund (ESF) is administered by the Commission, assisted by a Committee established under Article 147 of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

We look at the treaty provision and secondary legislation regulating the structural funds, including the ESF, and provisions concerning the European Social Fund Committee or Article 147 Committee. A whiff of comitology is promised.

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Article 147 TEC

Article 147 TEC (ex Article 124) states that the European Social Fund is administered by the Commission. In addition to participating in enacting the secondary legislation mentioned in Article 164 TEC, the EU member states keep an eye on ESF governance through a tripartite Committee.

The current Article 147 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), as published in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/111:

Article 147 TEC

The Fund shall be administered by the Commission.

The Commission shall be assisted in this task by a Committee presided over by a Member of the Commission and composed of representatives of governments, trade unions and employers' organisations.


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Original Lisbon Treaty (ToL)

Article 2, point 121 of the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) makes Chapter 2 on the European Social Fund into a Title of its own and point 122 concerns Article 148 (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/82).

This means that Article 147 TEC undergoes no specific amendments. As it happens, there are no horizontal amendments either.

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Renumbering ToL

The Table of equivalences of the original Treaty of Lisbon tells us that the Chapter on the European Social Fund was to become Title XI. Article 147 TEC first became Article 147 TFEU (ToL), then renumbered Article 163 TFEU in the consolidated versions of the amending treaties (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/216–217).


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Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

The renumbered Article 163 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), without specific or horizontal amendments, appears as follows in the consolidated TFEU, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/119:


(TITLE XI
THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND)

Article 163 TFEU
(ex Article 147 TEC)

The Fund shall be administered by the Commission.

The Commission shall be assisted in this task by a Committee presided over by a Member of the Commission and composed of representatives of governments, trade unions and employers' organisations.


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Commission

The Commission’s Directorate-General Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities offers a portal to the European Social Fund:

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

The ESF’s role in promoting the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs is clearly emphasised.

Although the Commission administers the ESF, the money from the EU budget together with national co-financing is actually spent in the member states. Detailed rules have been drawn up for the period 2007 to 2013, including the responsibilities of the Commission and the member states.

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Structural Funds

As one of the structural funds, the European Social Fund is governed according to Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 (OJ 31.7.2006 L 210/25), available here:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:210:0025:0078:EN:PDF

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Article 147 Committee or European Social Fund Committee

The ESF Committee is one of the many without a proper name, but officially referred to by the Article number. Understandably many humans prefer more evocative names. Perhaps the European Social Fund Committee would be a preferable name.

Regulation No 1083/2006 sets out rules on the Committee mentioned in Article 147 TEC. During the programming period 2007–2013 the Article 147 Committee has been slimmed down to one government representative, one trade union representative and one employers’ representative per member state, although each representative has an alternate entitled to take part in the proceedings. In other words, 162 members and alternates may take part in addition to the Commission chair:

CHAPTER II
Committee under Article 147 of the treaty

Article 104
Committee under Article 147 of the Treaty

1. The Commission shall be assisted by a committee set up under Article 147 of the Treaty (hereinafter referred to as the Committee). The Committee shall be composed of one government representative, one representative of the workers' organizations and one representative of the employers' organizations from each Member State. The Member of the Commission responsible for chairing the Committee may delegate that responsibility to a senior Commission official.

2. Each Member State shall nominate a representative and an alternate for each representative of each category referred to in paragraph 1. In the absence of one member, the alternate shall be automatically entitled to take part in the proceedings.

3. The members and alternates shall be appointed by the Council, acting on a proposal from the Commission, for a period of three years. They may be reappointed. The Council shall, as regards the composition of the Committee, endeavour to ensure fair representation of the different categories concerned. For the items on the agenda affecting it, the EIB and the EIF may appoint a non-voting representative.

4. The Committee shall:

(a) deliver its opinion on the implementing rules of this Regulation;

(b) deliver opinions on the draft Commission decisions relating to programming in the case of support from the ESF;

(c) be consulted when it deals with the categories of technical assistance measure referred to in Article 45 in the case of support from the ESF and other relevant issues having an impact on the implementation of employment, training and social inclusion strategies at EU level relevant to the ESF.

5. The Commission may consult the Committee on questions other than those referred to in paragraph 4.

6. For their adoption, the opinions of the Committee shall require an absolute majority of the votes validly cast. The Commission shall inform the Committee of the manner in which it has taken account of its opinions.


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Comitology

The ESF Committee can be seen in the light of the arcane science called comitology, i.e. the rules governing Committees assisting the Commission in implementing legislation. The Wikipedia article Comitology offers a quick overview:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comitology

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ESF Regulation No 1081/2006

Rules specific to the European Social Fund are set out in a separate Regulation.

Regulation (EC) No 1081/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the European Social Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1784/1999 (OJ 31.7.2006 L 210/12) is available here:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2006/l_210/l_21020060731en00120018.pdf


Article 2 sets out the tasks of the European Social Fund:

Article 2 ESF Regulation
Tasks

1. The ESF shall contribute to the priorities of the Community as regards strengthening economic and social cohesion by improving employment and job opportunities, encouraging a high level of employment and more and better jobs. It shall do so by supporting Member States' policies aiming to achieve full employment and quality and productivity at work, promote social inclusion, including the access of disadvantaged people to employment, and reduce national, regional and local employment disparities.

In particular, the ESF shall support actions in line with measures taken by Member States on the basis of the guidelines adopted under the European Employment Strategy, as incorporated into the Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs, and the accompanying recommendations.

2. In carrying out the tasks referred to in paragraph 1, the ESF shall support the priorities of the Community as regards the need to reinforce social cohesion, strengthen productivity and competitiveness, and promote economic growth and sustainable development. In so doing, the ESF shall take into account the relevant priorities and objectives of the Community in the fields of education and training, increasing the participation of economically inactive people in the labour market, combating social exclusion — especially that of disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities — and promoting equality between women and men and non-discrimination.


Ralf Grahn