Employment and Social Policy Council prepares for Stockholm

The EU Employment and Social Policy Council met on 6 March 2001. Ministers discussed a range of social policy issues, including preparations for the Stockholm summit meeting and safe and sustainable pension systems.

The 6 March 2001 Employment and Social Policy Council of Ministers, held under the Swedish Presidency, included an open debate on the issue of "safe and sustainable" pensions and future European cooperation in this field. The debate was transmitted live to the press and the public by television. Ministers reached broad agreement on the basic principles of safe and sustainable pension systems, as follows:

  • pensions should provide an adequate and secure income to the retired population;
  • pension systems should continue to meet social objectives, thus counteracting poverty and social exclusion;
  • there should be sound public finances, although the debate must not be narrowed to the financial aspects of pension systems;
  • solidarity should be maintained between and within generations;
  • the quality of pension systems should be improved;
  • the employment rate should be increased, particularly for women and older people, in order to cope with expected demographic imbalances; and
  • equality should be promoted between women and men in terms of the recognition of periods of work in the context of pension systems.

Ministers also looked at the issue of further enhancing European cooperation in the area of pensions, and agreed that the work so far undertaken by the EU Social Protection Committee, set up in June 2000, should be built upon. The Council concluded that the Social Protection Committee will now continue work on this issue and present a report to the June 2001 European Council in Gothenburg, which will establish a framework for continued cooperation at European level.

Ministers then held a preparatory political debate in advance of the Stockholm European Council, which was to be held on 23–24 March - the first regular spring summit dealing with employment and social issues, as agreed at the March 2000 Lisbon Council (EU0004241F). The debate focused on issues such as: full employment; a balance between employment, economic and social policies; reconciling family and working life; the promotion of the quality of work; removing barriers to mobility; and fighting poverty and social exclusion. The issues raised in the debate were to be transmitted to the Stockholm Council.

The Council also took note of the work programme of both the EU Employment Committee and the EU Social Protection Committee for 2001

Finally, the Council took note of the progress of proposed amendments to Regulation 1408/71 on the application of social security schemes to employed persons, self-employed persons and members of their families moving within the Community. The proposal aims to update this Regulation in line with changes to national legislation. The European Parliament (EP) delivered its Opinion on this proposal on 15 February 2001 – the Council of Ministers accepted the amendments proposed by the EP and a modified text was subsequently drawn up by the Commission and agreed by all three institutions. Formal adoption of this text by the Council will take place at a forthcoming Council after "legal-linguistic" finalisation of the text.

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