Monday, 4 July 2011

European Council documentation: Europe 2020 employment (II)

Is there a difference between The Emperor's New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen (see Wikipedia), and the conclusions by the European Council?

Yesterday, we saw that the June summit endorsed the country-specific recommendations approved by the Council and invited all Member States to reflect them in their national decisions as regards their budgets and structural reforms and to address the shortcomings revealed by this exercise.

Majestic enough, but no direct link or reference to the substance, what the heads of state or government actually approved, or not.


EPSCO documents

Thanks to a Commission memorandum, we found the relevant Council meetings, first of which the EPSCO configuration:

3099th Council meeting Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs - Employment and Social Policy; Luxembourg, 17 June 2011 (Council document 11574/11)

Some sort of general approval emerged, tempered by ”certain reservations” and a postponement (to the Ecofin Council). The ESPCO Council bequeathed us with four documents (gracefully linked on page 11), which we must read if we want to know what the ministers approved.

Recommendations

Here is our catch:

Recommendations for Council recommendations on the National Reform Programmes 2011 to each Member State - General approach (employment aspects) (21 June 2011, 11851/11; 2 pages)

Outside the circle of Council officials and national experts, the text is almost indecipherable:

Further to the outcome of the Council (EPSCO) reflected in doc. 11819/11, delegations will find hereafter the overall results of the Council session on 17 June. The final texts from EPSCO are included in the documents prepared by the Legal-Linguist Experts. In particular, the solutions found to, or the reservations maintained on the open points listed in doc. 11657/11, Section II, are included in the following documents:
[list of document numbers]

The second document is:

Recommendations for Council recommendations on the National Reform Programmes 2011 to each Member State - General approach (employment aspects) (17 June 2011, 11819/11; 4 pages)

Perhaps more interesting than why and how individual member states demurred, the EPSCO Council informed us that it had reached a general approach – in yet another document:

On June 17, the EPSCO Council held a policy debate on the Country Specific Recommendations in the context of the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Council reached a general approach on the employment aspects of the Council Recommendations as outlined in doc. 11657/11.
”Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition” - could we be close to unearthing something intelligible for ordinary mortals?

Here we go. All language versions considered, Council search yields 44 references. Let us be content with the English versions:

Recommendations for Council Recommendations on the National Reform Programmes 2011 to each Member State - General approach (Article 148 TFEU) (15 June 2011, 11657/11; 9 pages)

Here, the Council actually offered an introduction to the matter, described the process, listed general (horisontal) open questions, reservations by individual member states and described the next steps. In other words, just a few steps below the European Council we actually find some useful information, although most of all further document references.

The second additional document:

Recommendations for Council Recommendations on the National Reform Programmes 2011 to each Member State - General approach (Article 148 TFEU) (16 June 2011, 11657/11 COR 1)

This corrected document concerns only Spain and Hungary.

NRPs

We return to the EPSCO conclusions, where the Council endorsed the joint EMCO/SPC opinion on the examination of national reform programmes (10664/11) and the pilot version of the employment performance monitor (10666/1/11) [links in the original].

Piece of cake to use the links provided:

Examination of the National Reform Programmes 2011 - Joint opinion of the Employment Committee and of the Social Protection Committee = Endorsement (14 June 2011, 10664/11; 8 pages)

The committees have produced a readable, but extremely general text. Not much penetrates deeper than an assortment of newspaper headlines about current employment challenges in European countries, with the possible exception of the social protection and inclusion thoughts. These give us the feeling of the early stages of convergence towards some sort of consensus about common priorities at a European level.

Employment Performance Monitor

Employment Performance Monitor - Endorsement (15 June 2011, 10666/1/11 REV 1; 91 pages)

Few but some experts can be expected to peruse all the 91 pages of the document, but the the pilot version of the Employment Performance Monitor (EPM) could come in handy for those who want to see how their country measures up from a European perspective.

Although ”peer review” is a bit hazy, it has the potential to stimulate progress. Admittedly, more intensive communication and debate could usher in more frequent benefits at the national level, but where do we find these, when the European Council hides the beef beneath several layers of documents and the Brussels press corps keeps shrinking?

***

This was only the beginning. We still have to look at the Ecofin Council and the coordinating General Affairs Council, before we have unearthed what the European Council is ”wearing”, when it tells us of its endorsement.



Ralf Grahn



P.S. The Week in Bloggingportal offers its summary in a lighter vein: Tusk against the EUterus of death.