The European Pillar of Social Rights: a first step in the right direction or rather a palliative, cosmetic care? Some critical remarks from a constitutional perspective

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 by Pietro Masala, Postdoctoral Research Fellow (García Pelayo), CEPEC

On 17 November 2017 the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), a document proposed by the Juncker Commission expressing “principles and rights essential for fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems in 21st century Europe” (as said in its Preamble), was solemnly proclaimed by an interinstitutional conference in Gothenburg, in the framework of a “Social summit for fair jobs and growth”. It is, of course, too early to evaluate the concrete impact of this document on the development of the social dimension of the European Union. Nevertheless, it is possible to examine its contents and the acts which prepared its proclamation (namely, a Commission communication establishing the EPSR and a Commission recommendation setting the EPSR principles and rights[i]), in order to express some essential critical remarks.These shall help understand the EPSR’s constitutional meaning and implications in the present phase of the integration process.

It is widely recognised that, during the last decade, the financial crisis and, especially, the new economic governance which has been introduced and implemented in the eurozone as a response, have significantly increased the pre-existing “constitutional imbalance between ‘the market and ‘the social’ in the European Union”[ii] . The asymmetry between these two components was justified, at the early stages of the integration process, by a clear separation of powers and tasks between the European Communities (the market) and the Member States (the social), but it is no longer tolerable in the present Union. Both external and internal factors affect the sovereignty of the Member States in defining and implementing their social and employment policies, in a way that has reduced substantive equality and internal solidarity in European societies. On one hand, the new context of globalization implies new challenges for the “European social model”; on the other hand, the development of the European single market and of the Economic Monetary Union has had a strong impact on national welfare states.These factors as a whole induce to believe that the conferral of more extended powers (and resources) to the Union, allowing the partial federalisation of the social domain, is desirable, as it would entail a more effective protection of social rigths, through a fair cooperation between the Union and the Member States.

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Editorial of January 2018

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by Sergio Maia, Managing Editor


The European Pillar of Social Rights has taken the first steps – and now how far will it make the Union walk?

One year after the end of the public consultation period of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) that preceded its formal presentation and adoption, it is an inviting, seemingly appropriate time to remark its concrete meanings and consequences. The EPSR and its political and legislative initiatives (such as the adoption of a clarification of the Working Time Directive or the proposals for a Directive on Work-Life Balance and for a Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions) have started to redesign the materialisation of the social model underlying the public reason of the Union. Those public reason and social model are embedded in Article 3(3), TEU; Article 9, Article 151, TFEU, just to name a few.

According to that set of rules, the Union is bound to full employment, social progress, the fight against exclusion, the promotion of social justice, social protection and cohesion. To sum up, in other words, there exists, I believe, a social democratization rationale behind the objectives of the integration to which the exercise and the enjoyment of citizenship rights and fundamental rights protection are directly associated. This social democratization drives (and must do so) the fulfilment of the economic freedoms as well as the rights enshrined in the CFREU. Without social democratization, the European citizenship and its fundamental rights are worth very little. The case-law of the CJEU in Dano, Alimanovic and Commission v. UK proves just that.

The two aforementioned spindles are in the core of the Union based on the rule of law as the fruition of those rights – i.e., social model – shapes the purposes of the public reason of the European polity. Then, how does the Pillar promote the European social model?

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