On January 1, 2012, the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union came to an end, passing the function to Denmark for the next six months. In a particularly difficult environment, the Danish Presidency announced its four priorities, “a responsible, dynamic, green and safer Europe,” focused primarily on ending the crisis, guaranteeing economic stability and bringing about a return to growth and job creation.
Priorities of the Danish Presidency
- A responsible Europe: to address this chief priority, the Danish Presidency intends to strengthen budgetary discipline and stabilize the economy. In the context of the European semester and the “six pack,” it will work towards implementation of the economic governance policy measures and the first ever bi-annual review of national budgets. Enhancement of supervision and regulation of the financial sector is also on the agenda, as are discussions on the 2014-2020 EU budget.
- A dynamic Europe: the Danish Presidency also intends to contribute to renewed growth and job creation by focusing on the Single Market. Denmark thus commits to pursuing the 12 key priorities established by the Commission in its Single Market Act. It also wants to take full advantage of trade opportunities for the European Union.
- A green Europe: according to the Danish Presidency, renewed growth will be achieved through a sustainable and green economy. Denmark particularly wants to develop this transition by focusing on key areas such as the environment, energy, agriculture and transportation.
- A safer Europe: finally, with a view to ensuring the security of European citizens and Europe’s influence on the world stage, Denmark wants to promote European cooperation, particularly concerning immigration policies and the free movement of persons in the Schengen Area. The Presidency also intends to make progress in negotiations with third-party countries to prepare for future enlargements and strengthen its relations with neighboring regions.
Social, employment and health policy
Although social and employment policies do not seem to be at the forefront of Denmark’s program, the Presidency nonetheless intends to tackle the issues of unemployment and demographic change, and wants to make progress on a certain number of issues to promote job growth. The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will thus meet twice during the Presidency, on February 17 and June 21-22, to address these issues.
The Danish Presidency first wants to take advantage of 2012 as the European Year for Active Aging and Intergenerational Solidarity to launch a number of initiatives intended to encourage senior citizens’ participation in society, particularly in the job market. It will also build on the White Paper on pensions, which points out the problems of population aging and the decrease in the working-age population.
The Council will also address the issue of worker mobility, in particular tackling enhancement of the directive on posting of workers to improve protection of posted workers and avoid “social dumping.”
Another issue to be addressed during this Presidency is the European Program for Social Change and Innovation, which the Commission proposed in the multiannual financial framework of the 2014-2020 EU budget. This program brings together three current programs: Progress (Program for Employment and Social Solidarity) which should pursue common objectives in matters of social and employment and ensure effective coordination of policies among Member States. The program will be suited to the Europe 2020 Strategy; EURES(European Employment Services), intended to increase transparency on the job market and support information and counseling services at the national and transnational level; and the Progress Microfinance Facility, which aims to make microcredit more easily availability to unemployed workers and assists business creation.
The program of the Danish Presidency also includes the issue of equal opportunities, with a focus on gender equality, in training programs and boardrooms as well as on questions of climate change.
As for health issues, it should be observed that the Presidency takes population aging into account and plans to deal with chronic diseases, specifically diabetes.
In the end, the Danish Presidency’s social and employment policy seems to be inspired by “flexisecurity,” the socio-economic model shaped to a great extent by Denmark itself. This approach aims for the optimal combination of simplified firing procedures (flexibility), generous benefits and robust social protection (security), while encouraging a rapid return to employment and mobility.