Social security systems are one of the most powerful institutional expressions of social solidarity and an important means by which to ensure an adequate standard of living for the people of Europe.
Since it was founded in 1949, the Council of Europe, whose aim is "to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress", has played a major role in establishing social security minimum standards in Europe, developing social security coordination between its member states, and monitoring developments in the field of social security in Europe.
Establishing social security standards
Council of Europe standard-setting instruments require states to alter the substance of their social security systems. They may have to change the amount of benefit or length of the qualifying period.
The European Code of Social Security and its Protocol, as well as the Revised European Code of Social Security, set standards in the social security field on the basis of minimum harmonisation of the level of social security, providing minimum standards and permitting (or rather encouraging) the contracting parties to exceed these standards.
These standard-setting instruments, together with the European Social Charter, set out the underlying principles of what is referred to as the European social security model.