Document Type


Publication Title

Hastings International and Comparative Law Review



Publication Date



EEC Treaty, social progress, economic progress, Court of Justice, 1974 Social Action Program, Social Charter of 1989, Maastricht Treaty, Social Action Treaty


Certainly, in the eyes of the drafters of the EEC Treaty, social progress was inseparably linked with economic progress, and both were intimately related to the goal of a "union among the peoples of Europe." The Court of Justice has also recognized the importance of social policy, stating that "the Community not merely an economic union," but rather has a "double aim, which is at once economic and social ..." In view of the capital importance thus accorded to the social aspect of the European Community, it is surprising that the Community's achievements in the social sphere, both through legislation and through Court of Justice case law, have been relatively neglected in academic literature. It is the purpose of this Article to provide an overview of Community social policy, concentrating on its employee rights protection measures. The Article will give particular attention to the recent stimulus to Community social action provided by the Social Charter of 1989, a stimulus that has already yielded fruit in the form of significant recent legislation and proposals for further action. Part II of this Article deals with Community social policy prior to the Social Charter. At the outset, the Article situates social policy within the framework of the EEC Treaty. Next, the Article discusses the major employee economic rights protection legislation produced by the 1974 Social Action Program. In view of the importance and success of Community action to achieve equal economic rights for women as workers, this topic is treated separately and at greater length. This initial part of the Article concludes with coverage of worker health and safety legislation. The third part of this Article begins with a description of the background and nature of the Social Charter of 1989. Each of the major Social Charter substantive sections are then presented and briefly analyzed. The final section reviews the Commission's 1989 Communication on the Social Action Program, linking it to the Social Charter. This section also analyzes recent legislation, notably the 1992 directive on the protection of pregnant women and mothers of newborn infants, and ends by describing more summarily other significant pending proposals. An article treating such an important topic as Community social policy unfortunately cannot be totally comprehensive-that would re- quire a book. Still, an attempt will be made to sketch the key features. Some provocative questions will be raised and at least partially answered, such as: How has the Community managed to adopt social action measures despite the lack of a clear EEC Treaty authorization for such legislation? To what extent can useful comparisons be drawn between employee rights protection in the United States and in the Community? Why has the Court of Justice laid special stress on the attainment of equal economic rights for women? Why has Community social policy at times lagged behind economic achievements? Is social policy a valid component of the Community's program designed to achieve an integrated internal market? Is the Social Charter of 1989 apt to constitute a real incentive for the adoption of a practical legislative program or only to remain an eloquent statement of ideals? What is the prognosis for a more energetic Community social policy based on the measures proposed in the Commission's 1989 Social Action Program? What impact will the principle of "subsidiarity" as described in the Maastricht Treaty, or Treaty on European Union6 as it is properly denominated, have on Community social policy?

Included in

European Law Commons