At an event hosted by GUE/NGL  at the European Parliament today, experts and representatives of the Council of Europe and the Commission have come together to debate the European Social Charter (ESC) and its implementation in the EU.

The first panel saw experts from Spain, Italy and Germany sharing their national experiences, putting the spotlight on increased tensions between member state responsibilities towards the EU and to the Charter, and in particular, drawing  on the precedent from the 2007 Laval ruling. In turn, representatives from the Commission and the Council of Europe proposed ways to bridge the gap between EU Treaties and the European Social Charter in the second panel. 

Growing citizen dissatisfaction with the EU brought attention to social issues like employment, housing, health, education, social protection and welfare, which the Charter seeks to address. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had proposed his own alternative: the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Opening the event, GUE/NGL MEP Paloma Lopez argued for convergence between both instruments:

“The European Social Charter provides a different foundation for European integration: one where social rights come before economic freedoms.”

“Given that all member states are signatories to elements of the Charter, it is time for the EU to align its social acquis – including the Social Pillar – with the ESC and pave the way for full membership, as with the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The Spanish MEP added that the Charter provides citizens with protection against the worst aspects of the market:

“The European Social Charter provides an anchor to fight against the most regressive aspects of the Single Market and the economic governance framework, particularly in peripheral member states and those choked by the Troika.”

“The right to social protection, to fair working conditions, to collective bargaining and to strike are enshrined in international law through the ESC and must be defended”.

GUE/NGL MEP Barbara Spinelli called on to include the ESC in the ongoing debate about the future of Europe:

“The European Social Charter continues to be the ‘major absentee’ from the European Union's debate. Various proposals have been suggested in order to give concrete effect to its provisions, but what is missing seems to be the political will to put these in practice.”

“The current economic and social crisis needs clear and new answers that cannot be based on the mere perpetuation and institutionalisation of the status quo. The Social Charter already provides for alternative answers, we can no longer keep on blindly ignoring its very existence,” Spinelli added.

Concluding the event, Dutch MEP Dennis de Jong demanded immediate steps to incorporate the principles of the European Social Charter into the Commission’s work, while accession discussions are taking place:  

“I fully support the appeal of the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe to link the Social Pillar with the European Social Charter. Until the EU becomes party to the ESC, I urge Vice-President Timmermans to include the Charter in the Commission´s impact assessments: we do not want to see any new legislative proposals that undermine – let alone violate – human rights and the Charter is our yardstick in that respect,” De Jong concluded.

You can watch the event on demand via this link:

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