The European Commission has launched an EU-wide discussion on how to render the process of making social policy more efficient.
While most areas of social policy forming are subject to qualified majority voting, where new policies can be approved with votes representing at least 62 per cent of the total population of the EU, a limited but significant number of areas still compel policy to be determined through unanimous voting and special legislative procedures, wherein the European Parliament is relegated to a minority role in the decision making process. The EU social policy debate is intended to extend the fields in which qualified majority voting is applicable, in order to promote timely and flexible formulation of policy.
Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “To respond to rapid change in society and labour markets, the EU level will need timely, flexible and efficient decision-making for social policy. Today’s Communication opens the debate on how we can use existing provisions in the Treaties with that aim. It focuses on cases where there is clear EU added value, aiming to foster a culture of compromise and decision-making that responds to citizens’ needs for a fair single market.”
The Commission aims to open the EU social policy debate by trialling the use of passerelle clauses, which allow a shift from unanimous to qualified majority voting in certain instances, in negotiations over discrimination policy. The passerelle clause must be unanimously approved by the European Council and the national parliaments of Member States, in addition to needing the consent of the European Parliament.
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen said: “In their diversity, Member States are ultimately all striving for a fairer society based on equal opportunities and a future-proof social market economy. As the world of work is changing, we need to be able to make full use of the instruments in our toolbox to tackle our shared challenges.”