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Social policy

While fully recognising that the main political responsibility in these areas rests with national, regional or even local authorities, the EU wants to play a valuable role in promoting cooperation or even joint action, given that most of the problems are common to all Member States.

EU social policy has a wide scope of action, which ranges from establishing Europe-wide legislation to promoting non-binding exchanges of information and opinions.

Coordination of social security systems

The European Union has no powers to harmonise what are in some cases very different systems of social security in the Member States. Instead, its role is to coordinate these systems with the aim of guaranteeing established rights, e.g. for migrant workers, exchange students and tourists.

At the European level, the term “social security” means the service systems of the Member States provided upon the occurrence of one of the following: sickness and maternity, accidents at work and occupational diseases, old-age, disability and death (services to survivors) and unemployment. Family services are also included. REGULATION (EEC) No. 1408/71 on the application of social security schemes to employed persons and their families moving within the Community and Regulation (EEC) No. 574/72 fixing the procedure for implementing Regulation (EEC) No. 1408/71, ensure that anyone who has made use of the right to free movement and right of residence does not find him/herself in a worse position than someone who has always lived and worked in one single Member State. However, this does not affect the national social security systems; each Member State decides what its social security system grants, under what conditions, and in what amount.

Regulation (EEC) No. 1408/71 on the application of social security schemes is to be replaced by the Regulation (EC) No. 883/2004 of 29 April 2004. The new Regulation will only enter into force after the adoption of its implementing Regulation. In January 2006, the Commission submitted a proposal for the new implementing regulation to the Council, which is examining the proposal chapter by chapter. The Slovenian tasks on the dossier on the coordination of social security systems depend on the progress achieved during the Portuguese Presidency.


Open method of coordination

A fundamental component of European social policy is the open method of coordination, formulating common objectives which all Member States are expected to implement through national measures. Common EU-wide objectives have been defined in the areas of social inclusion (since 2000), pension systems (since 2001), healthcare and long-term care (since 2004). At regular intervals, Member States report on their progress and procedures, which are evaluated in Joint Reports by the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.

The priority tasks of the Slovenian Presidency will include the preparation of a new cycle of the open method of coordination in the areas of social protection and social inclusion as well as further integration of this process into the Lisbon Agenda, account taken of the common social objectives of the Member States.


New social realities

The new social realities of Europe result from profound changes in European societies and call for comprehensive responses at the European, national, regional and local level. Presumably, a clearer picture of the situation will emerge from the Social Reality Stocktaking, to be concluded by the Commission in spring 2008. Coping with social challenges will require further modernisation and reinforcement of the European social model and will also have to be reflected in the modernised Social Agenda 2005-2010, expected by the mid 2008.

The Slovenian Presidency will focus on the issues of the fight against poverty, namely the poverty of children and youth, and the fight against social exclusion which are among key responses to current social challenges. Further steps towards achieving the EU objective to reduce poverty and social exclusion by 2010 are required.


Demographic challenges

The European Union is facing significant demographic changes, caused mainly by two trends: longer life expectancy and continued low fertility rates. While most demographic issues fall within the areas of competence of the Member States, the cooperation and exchange of practices are helpful in meeting common EU challenges.

The Commission Communication “The Demographic Future of Europe – From Challenge to Opportunity” is a reference framework used to assist the Member States in drawing up a constructive response to the challenges of demographic change; in addition, the Communication highlights the importance of successful implementation of the Lisbon Strategy. A more visible and sustainable inclusion of all aspects of demographic change represents an essential contribution to achieving the Lisbon objectives.

The Slovenian Presidency will continue the European debate on demographic change launched by the German Presidency.  The discussion will focus on the issue of dealing with new relations between generations and the issue of developing new forms of solidarity between generations through mutual support and transfer of knowledge and experience. The discussion will also address the long-term care as one of the important aspects of the intergenerational solidarity and will focus on the quality and accessibility of the long-term care.


Fight against discrimination

The Slovenian Presidency will endeavour to ensure sustainability of results of the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All – Towards a Just Society.

The Slovenian Presidency will pursue the trio's commitment to strengthen activities aimed at ensuring equal opportunities and preventing discrimination against persons with disabilities [link to the conference on persons with disabilities]. To this end, we will place particular attention to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As the Presiding country, Slovenia will undertake different initiatives to encourage the European Union and its Member States to ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocol and transpose its provisions into their national legislation or implement them in practice. Furthermore, Slovenia will be committed to improving employment opportunities and social inclusion of persons with disabilities within the framework of the Lisbon process and the open method of coordination on social protection and social inclusion.


Gender Equality

moreGender equality is a fundamental right and a common value of the European Union enshrined in the EC Treaty, and a necessary condition to achieve the objectives of economic growth, employment, social cohesion, prosperity and competitiveness identified in the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs. With the European Pact for Gender Equality Member States committed themselves to implementing gender equality policies and measures on European and national level. The implementation of the Pact goes hand in hand and seeks complementarities and synergies with the implementation of the Commission's Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men 2006-2010, which identifies the priority areas of action for the promotion of gender equality. 

Slovenia will place a particular emphasis on the elimination of gender stereotypes in society and the importance of strengthening the role and status of women in achieving gender equality (Informal meeting of ministers for employment, social policy and gender equality, and Ministerial conference on gender equality ).

The Slovenian Presidency will continue to monitor the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and will, in this context, develop indicators for girls and boys and prepare a report on women in decision-making processes.

One of the emphases of the Slovenian Presidency will be placed on the gender mainstreaming approach to be promoted in all relevant policy processes and areas.

A programme of exchange of good practices, initiated by the Commission, will begin to be implemented through the first expert seminar organised during Slovenia's Presidency, which will tackle the issue of reconciling work, private and family life.


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Date: 10.01.2008