SOCIAL AND EMPLOYMENTaPOLICY : MADRID WANTS TO FIGHT EU UNEMPLOYMENT.

Tackling unemployment is among the main priorities for Spain, which has one of the EU's highest rates, even though this remains mainly an area where measures must be taken by member states themselves. However, the Council and the European Parliament are examining the micro-finance facility the European Commission proposed to tackle the impact of the financial crisis. This aims to help the unemployed and entrepreneurs who encounter difficulties when seeking loans from banks. They failed to reach a first-reading agreement on 8 December since views differ on whether the money should come from an existing part of the budget or a new budgetary line. Madrid will now have to renegotiate the issue with the European Parliament in the next few months in order to get the crisis mechanism up and running.

Besides the microfinance facility, eyes are mainly focused on the Commission when it comes to new employment legislation. Expected in the next six months are revision of the Working Time Directive after an earlier attempt to amend it failed last Spring and a "proposal improving the implementation of the Posted Workers Directive". On the latter, the EU's social partners are still conducting a joint analysis of the "problems" involved but, considering this has taken more than a year already, there is little prospect they will come to a joint conclusion. As for the Working Time Directive, CommissionaPresident Jose Manuel Barroso has promised to make a comprehensive legislative proposal following a new social impact assessment.

SOCIAL POLICY

One of Spain's main social policy priorities is the anti-discrimination directive. This proposal on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation aims to guarantee equal treatment outside the labour market, particularly in the areas of social protection (including social security and health care), social advantages...

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