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), CEPC, Madrid

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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