§ Ms Jowell
Along with my hon. Friend the Minister for Competitiveness, I represented the UK at the Employment and Social Policy Council held in Brussels on 27 to 28 November.
This was a busy Council, the most significant item being the agreement brokered on the Social Policy Agenda, which identifies the main priorities in the field of social policy for the next five years. The agreed text, to be sent to the Nice European Council for adoption, emphasises the goals agreed at the Lisbon Council in March, in particular in the areas of employment, social inclusion and the use of the open co-ordination approach.
Council agreed the three elements of the Autumn Employment Package: the draft Employment guidelines; Recommendations on member states' employment policies and the Joint Employment Report for 2000, prior to the European Council at Nice.829W
The Presidency made a progress report on a proposal for a decision on a community programme providing analytical support for the European Employment Strategy which is being negotiated in working group.
The Presidency presented its progress reports on the work undertaken on simplifying the legislation co-ordinating social security systems for migrant workers and on this year's miscellaneous amendments to Regulation 1408/71. It also presented an interim report on the future of social protection. Council agreed an action programme to tackle social exclusion, providing funding for exchanges of information and best practice in this area.
Council discussed both information and consultation and the European Company Statute; the Presidency published its conclusions on these dossiers without any agreement being reached.
The Council agreed to adopt the community action programme on gender equality and also agreed conclusions on balancing work and family life, following up the Beijing platform for action.
The Council reached political agreement on a compromise proposal on the Physical Agents (Vibrations) Directive, which seeks to protect workers from the effects of vibrations and also agreed to invite the Commission to monitor scientific developments in this field.