Lisbon Treaty : A Social Policy in a Minor Key

European Social Policy, November 14, 2007 | Go to article overview

Lisbon Treaty : A Social Policy in a Minor Key


While the scope of social policy does not change, certain developments nonetheless occur with regard to the philosophy of the objectives, the introduction of a social horizontal clause, voting rules on social issues, the emphasis given to social dialogue and provisions for keeping the European Parliament better informed.

Social objectives. A highly competitive social market economy aiming at full employment and social progress, the fight against "social exclusion and discrimination," "social justice and protection," "equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child" become EU objectives.

Horizontal clause. In the same spirit, but more concretely, there now appears at the head of the TFEU a provision obliging the Union to take account, "in defining and implementing its policies and actions," a range of "requirements": promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health (Article 9 TFEU). Similarly, the Union must take into account the fight against certain types of discrimination - on grounds of sex, race or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation (Article 10 TFEU).

Social security. Matters related to social security rights for workers exercising freedom of movement in the EU (employees or otherwise, with self-employed persons explicitly targeted) may be debated by qualified majority rather than unanimity, as is currently the case (Article 42 TFEU). In exchange, a procedure for referral to the European Council is introduced where a member state considers that this would "affect important aspects of its social security system". The European Council will take action by consensus. This provision, requested by Germany, is accompanied by a suspension measure sought by the European Commission. …

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