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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Press Release
EU Employment Ministers study the new European Commission proposal for a directive on the organisation of working time

Date of release : 02-06-2005

Policy area : Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs

Event : Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

During the Employment and Social Affairs Council, held in Luxembourg on 2 June 2005 and chaired by François Biltgen, Luxembourg's Minister for Labour and Employment, the EU Ministers studied the proposal amending the directive on the organisation of working time adopted by the Commission on 31 May following opinion of the Parliament on 11 May 2005. A preliminary examination of the text had already been made at the Coreper meeting on 1 June.


Despite the extremely short timeframe, the Luxembourg Presidency decided to keep this item on the agenda as it is essential to find a solution to this issue.


The presentation of the proposal by the Commission at a public session was followed by a discussion between Ministers over lunch. Talks focused on the main lines of the new proposal and particularly on the very sensitive matter of possible opt-outs to the 48-hour limit on the working week.


Returning to the public session, Minister Biltgen presented the following oral conclusions:


  • "The European Parliament has expressed itself in the clearest of terms. The Commission has not included all of the Parliament's modifications in its amended proposal hence it is difficult to respect Parliament's opinion in its entirety; 
  • solutions must be found urgently, particularly to the legal uncertainty resulting from the Simap/Jaeger judgments;
  • the Council welcomes the Commission's attempt to present a compromise but regrets that the delegations had insufficient time for an in-depth study of the new proposal, making it difficult to arrive at a decision;
  • regarding the main item of discussion, whether to keep the possibility of an opt-out, two differing views are evident within the Council: firstly the countries recommend that the opt-out be maintained to support freedom of choice and economic growth. Secondly however, other countries recognise that this proposal, particularly in the dispositions on annualisation of working time, offers such flexibility that an opt-out is no longer justified. The Presidency is pleased to note some leeway within the two camps and a desire for compromise shared by all;
  • two specific problems must be solved first, in order to arrive at a workable compromise on the opt-out issue: problems in the healthcare sector resulting from the Simap/Jaeger judgments and the tradition in certain countries of permitting an individual to have more than one work contract at a given time;
  • the Presidency is pleased to observe the Commission's openness to discussions with the aim of finding a compromise solution. Delegations have nonetheless criticised the lack of objective criteria concerning the opt-out and the conditions under which the Commission may take a decision affecting the Member States;
  • given the short time allocated by the Commission to consider the proposal and the clear desire shown by all sides to find a compromise, the Presidency has called on Coreper to restart work and to keep the Council informed. The Commission's proposal is not a definitive text but a good basis for work to be done in future discussions."

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This page was last modified on : 03-06-2005

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