Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council configuration (EPSCO)

Council of the EU

The EPSCO Council works to increase employment levels and improve living and working conditions, ensuring a high level of human health and consumer protection in the EU.

How does the EPSCO Council work?

The EPSCO Council brings together ministers responsible for employment, social affairs, health and consumer policy from all EU member states. Relevant European Commissioners also participate in meetings.

There are usually four EPSCO meetings a year. Two of the meetings are generally devoted exclusively to employment and social policy topics.

About employment, social, health and consumer affairs policy

The overall objective of the EU action is to raise the standard of living and quality of life of its citizens, notably through high-quality jobs and a high level of social and health protection and the protection of consumers' interests.

In the fields of employment and social policy, the Council is responsible for drawing up annual employment guidelines which the member states take into account in their national policies. It also adopts legislation, together with the European Parliament, aimed at improving working conditions, social inclusion and gender equality.

While the member states have full responsibility for defining their health policies and for the organisation and delivery of healthcare, the Council adopts, together with the European Parliament, legislation relating to the quality and safety of human organs and blood, patients' rights in cross-border healthcare and the quality and safety of medicines and medical devices.

As regards consumer protection, the Council adopts, together with the European Parliament, EU-wide rules to protect the health and safety of consumers, as well as their economic interests.

Priorities of the Estonian presidency

The Estonian presidency welcomes the European Commission's proposal on the European pillar of social rights. It intends to move forward with the discussion on approving the pillar on a political level in the Council.

The Estonian presidency will continue the work on updating and simplifying social security coordination regulations.  In order to make it possible for people to receive their benefits more rapidly when moving between member states, the presidency plans to work on the electronic exchange of social security data between member states. 

The presidency also aims to hold successful negotiations on the posting of workers directive.

In order to reduce the exposure to carcinogenic substances in working environments, the presidency considers it important to establish limit values on additional dangerous substances in the EU. As such it intends to amend the carcinogens and mutagens directive as one of the priorities of the presidency.

Regarding health, the Estonian presidency aims to further develop the discussion between member states on reducing the harm caused by alcohol. In order to create the necessary preconditions for the wider use and cross border movement of health data, for treatment purposes, and for research and innovation, the presidency considers it important to implement the principles of the digital single market in the health sector.