Commission officials, for their part, said ahead of the meeting that they would be looking nervously on if ministers did indeed consider splitting the Directive with a view to striking a preliminary deal. "Institutionally, the Commission has not been in favour of such an approach", one official pointed out on December 7.
The reason: In view of last May's landmark European Parliament vote against the opt-out and in favour of referring to inactive, on-call, time for doctors and other workers as official working time, concerns would arise among Commission officials that MEPs could seek to drive an even deeper wedge between the EU executive's and many member states' take on the Directive. "The Commission doesn't believe that the splitting would be a good idea vis-a-vis the Parliament", the official said.
"Everybody wants a deal because you want to solve the on-call issue", he also said ahead of the meeting, adding that the EU executive would "try to help the Presidency strike a deal between the two evenly-divided camps". These include the pro-opt-out, UK-led contingent, backed by Germany, Poland and many other 'new' member states, and the largely anti-opt-out contingent, spearheaded by France and Sweden, which have put forward their own separate proposal with a view to phasing it out eventually, and backed by other 'old' member states.
A revised UK Presidency compromise proposal on how to handle the controversial Working Time Directive emerged on December 5, albeit with only minor changes made to a previous draft document discussed...