European social policy was developed through the provisions of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and the changing conditions that called for a new perspective of the relationship between economic and social policy. Throughout the years, many milestones point to the acknowledgement of the increasing interaction between economic and social policy. Political will for a strong social dimension is reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Social Rights of Workers, adopted in 1989. The Charter became a benchmark in the legislative work of the European Union with regard to terms and conditions of employment, equal opportunities and health and safety. The Amsterdam Treaty in 1997, incorporated the new term “employment” in the Treaty for the European Community. Henceforth, the promotion of a high level of employment is one of the objectives of the European Union. The Amsterdam Treaty introduced the European Employment Strategy. At the European Council in Lisbon in 2000, the fight against poverty and social exclusion was officially accepted as an EU policy area. The European Council in Nice, which followed the Lisbon European Council, defined the four common objectives of the European Strategy for Social Inclusion (facilitate participation in employment and access by all to resources, rights, goods and services, prevent risks of exclusion, help the most vulnerable and mobilise all relevant bodies in the fight against social exclusion). The new Europe 2020 Strategy, adopted by the European Council in 2010, puts forward three mutually reinforcing priorities, smart growth, sustainable growth and inclusive growth. To this end, the Strategy sets five concrete targets to be achieved within the next decade, including the following two that are related to social policy and employment policy:
- 75% of population aged 20 – 64 should be employed
- 20 million less people should be at risk of poverty and social exclusion.
The priorities of the Cyprus Presidency for Social and Employment Policy focus on:
- Strengthening social cohesion, placing emphasis on child well –being, the active participation of older people in all aspects of the society and intergenerational solidarity.
- Investing in more and better jobs, new and upgraded skills with emphasis on tackling youth unemployment.
- Strengthening the participatory processes and the involvement of social partners local authorities and the civil society in the implementation of Europe 2020 especially as regards the targets of employment, poverty and social exclusion, drawing from experience on best practices at national and European level.
- Following up work on the United Nations Beijing Platform for Action particularly on the indicators for Violence against Women, which is a major obstacle to the achievement of gender equality, with a special focus on victims’ support services. The Cyprus Presidency will also encourage discussions on the gender pay gap problem challenge by facilitating the exchange of good practices between member states.
The freedom to provide services is a basic right of the EU and includes the right of undertakings to post their workers in another country to perform work as a part of the service provided. The current Directive on posted workers sets mandatory rules at EU level on terms and conditions of employment that must be applied to posted workers in the host country. The European Commission has put forward a proposal for an enforcement Directive to clarify and improve the implementation in practice of the rules on the posting of workers. The proposed enforcement Directive sets more ambitious standards to inform workers and companies about their rights and obligations, establishes clear rules for cooperation between national authorities in charge of posting, provides elements to improve the implementation and monitoring of the notion of posting to avoid the multiplication of "letter-box" companies that use posting as a way to circumvent employment rules, defines the supervisory scope and responsibilities of relevant national authorities, and improves the enforcement of workers’ rights, including the introduction of joint and several liability for the construction sector for the wages of posted workers as well as the handling of complaints. Together with the posted workers amending directive, the European Commission proposed a Regulation that lays down the general principles and rules applicable at Union level with respect to the exercise of the fundamental right to take collective action within the context of the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services. The proposed Regulation clarifies that there is no primacy between the right to take collective and the freedom to provide services.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) appear widely in everyday life, at home, in leisure and in the work environment. Exposure to high levels of EMFs in industrial, medical, research or other activities may result to harmful effects in the health of workers, therefore limitation of exposure levels and protective measures are necessary to be applied. The existing directive on the protection of workers from the risks arising from the exposure to EMFs introduces measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of persons at work in relation to short-term adverse health effects on workers exposed to EMFs. Due to practical difficulties in the application of this directive, and in order to improve the regulatory framework in the interests of citizens and economic operators, in the light of the latest scientific findings on the impact of electromagnetic radiation on health, the European Commission has adopted a proposal updating the provisions of this Directive. The Commission proposal aims, in particular, to amend the exposure limit values originally proposed by the Commission and not to set an exposure limit value for static magnetic fields, an essential component of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the health sector.
The Fund was initially established for the programming period 2007 – 2013 to provide the Union with an instrument to demonstrate solidarity with and give support to workers made redundant as a result of major structural changes in world trade patterns caused by globalisation. Τhe EGF aims to facilitate the re-integration of workers in areas, sectors, territories or labour markets suffering the shock of serious economic disruption. The European Commission presented a new Proposal, in order to ensure that the EGF continues to operate in the next programming period 2014 – 2020, extending the scope of the EGF to include farmers.