Legal protection and effective enforcement of social rights in the Council of Europe member States
Implementation of social rights in the Council of Europe member States: the Secretary General's view
Social rights will remain at the top of our agenda, in particular securing more ratifications of the Revised European Social Charter and the Protocol on Collective Complaints", sais in his 2016 Report on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law - A Security Imperative for Europe, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland.
Social rights are part of Chapter 5 of the Report, dedicated to “Inclusive societies”, one the “five fundamental building blocks of democratic security”.
Excerpt from the Report:
"Respect for human dignity is the foundation of human rights, and it is through the implementation of social rights that this dignity is protected. Respect for social rights contributes to peaceful and stable societies. The effective enjoyment of social rights such as housing, education and health, non-discrimination, employment, decent working conditions and legal, social and economic protection provides the basis for respect for human dignity.
The Turin Process turns the declarations of principle at national and European levels into targeted political actions. The specific priorities include:
- the ratification of the Revised European Social Charter by all member states;
- the enhancement of the Collective Complaints procedure, which directly involves social partners and civil society in monitoring activities regarding the application of the Charter;
- the reinforcement of the Charter treaty system within the Council of Europe and in its relationship with the European Union law.
The aim is to increase the co-ordination of different European systems, whether they are established within the Council of Europe or within the European Union, and to promote more cohesive, integrated and open democratic societies.
The economic crisis in Europe and the austerity measures adopted in response to it have had a negative impact on the effective respect for human rights, and especially for social and economic rights. In this situation, the rights of vulnerable groups of people such as the elderly, children, migrants and their families may be undermined and need to be monitored with particular attention to avoiding dangerous repercussions on the social cohesion and democratic security of our societies.
In 2015, the European Committee of Social Rights adopted 762 conclusions in respect of 31 States, including some 239 findings of non-conformity to the Charter (31%). There were 432 conclusions of conformity (57%), whereas the number of “deferrals” (cases where the committee was unable to assess the situation due to lack of information) amounted to 91 cases (12%). An outstanding positive result is the fact that the proportion of cases in conformity with the Charter provisions has reached its highest level since 2005.
Proposed actions and recommendations related to social rights
- encourage effective follow-up by the member states of the Conclusions of the European Committee of Social Rights, as provided in the 2014 "Turin Process" Action plan.
- encourage further ratifications by member states of the revised European Social Charter, including the acceptance of the collective complaints procedure."