European Scrutiny Committee Contents

13 European Year for Active Ageing



COM(10) 462

Draft Decision on the European Year for Active Ageing

Legal baseArticle 153(2) TFEU; co-decision; QMV
Document originated6 September 2010
Deposited in Parliament10 September 2010
DepartmentWork and Pensions
Basis of considerationEM of 22 September 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in Council21 October 2010
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionClear


13.1 Each year, since 1983, the EU has proposed a "European Year" to raise awareness about a particular theme and to provide a focus for activity by EU institutions, national, local and regional authorities, and representatives of civil society. Each European Year usually has a dedicated budget which enables the EU to subsidise EU-level events and to provide co-funding for actions undertaken at national, regional or local level. So, for example, the 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion has a budget of €17 million, covering a two-year period, and the 2011 European Year for Volunteering has a budget of €8 million for one year.

13.2 The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council agreed Conclusions in November 2009 and June 2010 inviting the Commission to designate 2012 the European Year of Active Ageing in order to promote awareness of the benefits of active ageing.

The draft Decision

13.3 The purpose of the draft Decision is to designate 2012 as the European Year of Active Ageing and to enable all those with a role to play in promoting active ageing to plan campaigns and activities around this theme. Article 2 of the draft Decision defines "active ageing" as "creating better opportunities and working conditions to enable older workers to play their part in the labour market, combating social exclusion by fostering active participation in society, and encouraging healthy ageing". The objectives of the Year are to:

  • raise awareness of the value of active ageing by highlighting the contribution that older workers can make to society and to the economy and doing more to mobilise the potential of older people;
  • exchange ideas and good practice on how best to promote active ageing policies; and
  • provide a framework for action to enable Member States and others with a role to play to develop policies and specific activities to encourage active ageing.

13.4 The types of activities envisaged include conferences, educational campaigns, awareness-raising and dissemination of good practice, and research and survey work. Each Member State is required to appoint a national co-ordinator to organise activities at national level and to co-ordinate with their counterparts in other Member States and with the Commission.

13.5 In its explanatory memorandum accompanying the draft decision, the Commission suggests that promoting a healthy and active lifestyle and encouraging older people to stay in employment for longer will help to preserve their autonomy while also mitigating the social and economic costs associated with rapidly ageing societies in Europe. The European Year of Active Ageing is intended to create better opportunities for older workers to remain active in the labour market and to help combat social exclusion by encouraging voluntary work and other activities. It also complements the EU's Europe 2020 Strategy for Jobs and Growths which encourages Member States to "promote new forms of work-life balance and active ageing policies and to increase gender equality".[53]

13.6 The Commission says that it has consulted widely on the theme of active ageing and that, while policy in this area is largely a national responsibility, Member States consider that a European Year could help to increase general awareness of the benefits of active ageing and to mobilise policy makers and other interested parties to commit themselves to specific goals and actions at national, regional, local and company levels. Unlike previous European Years, the Commission does not propose a dedicated budget to support active ageing policies and initiatives. Any EU funding will come from existing budget lines and programmes.

13.7 The legal base for the draft Decision establishing the European Year for Active Ageing is Article 153(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). EU measures based on this Article are intended to "support and complement" the activities of Member States in the field of social policy enumerated in Article 153(1), including on working conditions, the integration of individuals excluded from the labour market and, on combating social exclusion. Article 153(2)(a) provides for measures to "encourage co-operation between Member States through initiatives aimed at improving knowledge, developing exchanges of information and best practices, promoting innovative approaches and evaluating experiences", and excludes any harmonisation of national laws. Article 153 (2)(b) provides for the adoption of Directives establishing legally binding "minimum requirements". Action at EU level is justified, according to the Commission, because the purpose of the European Year is to stimulate the trans-national exchange of information and dissemination of good practice.

The Government's view

13.8 The Minister for Employment (Chris Grayling) supports the designation of 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and says that the objectives set out in the draft Decision are consistent with UK policy. He notes that no new policy, legislative or financial implications arise for the UK from the Commission's proposal. He adds that the Year "provides opportunities for the UK to showcase its own good practices, encouraging localities to give attention to what makes them good places to grow older, and to share their experiences, achievements and challenges with European communities with whom they already have existing relationships." The Minister says that the draft Decision is likely to be adopted by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council on 21 October.


13.9 We note the Government's enthusiastic support for the designation of 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing. The proposed focus on active ageing appears to fit well with the themes highlighted in the European Years for 2010 and 2011 — on combating poverty and social exclusion and promoting volunteering — and this continuity may make the task of raising awareness and mobilising action easier to achieve. The focus on active ageing also complements the active labour market policies envisaged in the EU's Europe 2020 Strategy.

13.10 We note that the budgetary implications of the Commission's proposal to designate 2012 as the European Year of Active Ageing will be far more modest than in previous years, with all EU funding coming from existing budget lines and programmes. We look forward to the Commission's evaluation report on the European Year, in 2014, to see what impact (if any) reduced EU funding has on the attainment of the objectives in Article 2 of the draft Decision.

13.11 Some aspects of the activities proposed for the European Year of Active Ageing — such as the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and volunteering — touch on policy areas dealt with elsewhere in the Treaties on public health and vocational training, but also fall within the broad ambit of activities contemplated in Article 153(1). We think that amending the legal base of the draft Decision to refer specifically to Article 153(2)(a) would help to clarify the nature of EU action as a means of facilitating co-operation between Member States while expressly excluding any harmonisation of national laws. We are content to clear the draft Decision from scrutiny while drawing it to the attention of the House.

53   See Europe 2020, under the Flagship Initiative on An Agenda for new skills and jobs,  Back

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