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Parliamentary questions
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21 February 2012
Answer given by Mr Andor on behalf of the Commission
Question reference: P-000709/2012

The Commission is fully aware of the importance of volunteer firefighters in providing comprehensive emergency services to citizens in many Member States, particularly in rural areas.

As it indicated in its 2010 communication(1) on the review of the Working Time Directive(2), the Commission sees a need to give particular consideration to the situation of volunteer firefighters. Excluding them from the scope of EU working-time rules would, in its view, be inappropriate, having regard in particular to Article 31 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. However, other solutions that both take the special characteristics of this activity suitably into account and ensure proper protection of volunteers' health and safety are possible.

The Commission would point out that the main cross-sectoral social partners at European level decided on 15 November 2011 to open negotiations on the review, as they are entitled to do under Article 154(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Their objective is to reach an agreement which could be implemented by means of a Council decision under Article 155 TFEU. Out of respect for the autonomy of the social partners' negotiations, the Commission will abstain from putting forward a proposal to amend the legislation during the period provided for under the Treaty for their negotiations.

(1)‘Reviewing the Working Time Directive’ (COM(2010)801 final of 21 December 2010), at Section 5.2(v).
(2)Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time, OJ L 299, 18.11.2003.

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