Commission to cut maternity leave from 2015 work programme

Jean-Claude Juncker [European People's Party/Flickr]

The European Commission has presented its severely pared back work programme for 2015. Frans Timmermans has threatened to withdraw the maternity leave directive if an agreement is not reached within six months. EURACTIV France reports

Maternity leave may not be the Commission’s top priority, but its treatment of the issue is raising eyebrows in Strasbourg. The Commission Vice-President has warned that the proposed directive, which has been a bone of contention since 2009, will be given only a further six months in which to convince the 28 member states.

If it fails to do so, it will be abandoned. Timmermans said “we are prepared to make one last effort to get this proposal adopted, but if there is no progress within six months we will abandon it and present a new proposal to try and release the institutional deadlock”.

The European Parliament had proposed extending maternity leave within the EU to 20 weeks, but this failed to find a consensus in the Council.

A de facto veto for member states?

Guy Verhofstadt, the President of the European Parliament’s Liberal group, expressed his disappointment at the Commission’s work programme. “We fully support the idea of better regulation, but withdrawing a text because it is blocked by the member states is not the right solution. If the member states that oppose a text know that they can have it withdrawn if they block it for long enough, that is exactly what they will do!” he said.

Legislative spring cleaning

The proposed maternity leave directive is not the only one with its back against the wall. The bills on organic farming and food labelling and the commercial use of Earth observation satellite data have also been given six months to find consensus or face the chop.

Frans Timmermans has singled out 80 legislative proposals from the total of 450 that are currently awaiting a decision in the European Parliament and the Council, for withdrawal or reworking.

Charles de Marcilly, from the Robert Schuman Foundation, pointed out that “it is nothing new for the European Commission to withdraw texts that are “rotting” in the Council. Between 30 and 40 texts are withdrawn every year”.

But the Commission has also produced 23 new initiatives that it hopes to bring in over the next year, organised around ten priority areas. Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs that this was well below the normal output of the executive. “There was a time when the Commission would propose 100 initiatives per year,” he said during a debate in Strasbourg.

Juncker plan tops political priorities

The 315 billion euro investment plan is on top of the Commission’s list of priorities for 2015. It will be presented to the EU’s heads of government for their approval during the European Council in Brussels on 18 and 19 December.

>> Read: Juncker defines 10 priorities for EU, seeks inter-institutional support

The establishment of single digital and energy markets, the strengthening of the economic and monetary union, the harmonisation of fiscal policy, support for jobseekers, particularly the younger generation, the transatlantic trade agreement and the revision of the posted workers directive are also high on the Commission’s 2015 list.


This reordering of priorities has raised objections from the Greens, the Socialists and the Liberals.

The idea of abandoning the proposals on the circular economy, waste management and air quality has met with particularly strong opposition from MEPs, who see it as a capitulation to the powerful European business lobbies.

>> Read: Gender equality and environment laws on business lobby hit list

Frans Timmermans promised the European Parliament that the Commission would table “more ambitious” proposals on these issues in 2015.

>> Read: Commission plans to ditch circular economy and air pollution rules

Jean-Claude Juncker has given the Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans the task of lightening the administrative and the legislative weight of the EU. 

The Commission took advice from various parties on the subject, including BusinessEurope, certain member states and a group of 20 NGOs, unions and other civil organisations. 

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