Strengthening Social Rights in a Time of Crisis


Eminent Jurists launch a Call to Action on Social Rights in the European Union : Rebuilding Trust in the European Project  

Declaration of 9 May 2019, Brussels

Press release

[English Version ] [French version]

On this Europe Day, eminent jurists are launching a Call to Action to ensure that social rights shall be a priority of the next European legislature.

The group of jurists includes former members of constitutional courts, and current or former members of the European Committee of Social Rights and of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

This Call to Action is an appeal to the European Union institutions to strengthen the legitimacy of the European project, by rebalancing the economic and social constitutions of the EU”, professor De Schutter commented. “Europe shall not redeem itself by being modest and by lowering its ambitions: instead, it shall do so by setting the bar high, ensuring that social rights result in shared prosperity and a stronger social fabric of societies. This Call is not a call for less Europe: it is a call for a Europe that is visionary and proud of its founding values”.

The signatories note that, within the economic and monetary union (launched in 1992), and especially since the reforms to the socio-economic governance of the EU following the financial and economic crisis of 2009-2011, the Union has developed powerful instruments to steer the macro-economic policies and budgetary choices of its Member States. Social rights – such as health, education and housing – have been comparatively neglected, however. This results in an imbalance, in which the EU is perceived as promoting macroeconomic policies aimed at keeping public deficits under control and at improving the competitiveness of the Member States' economies, at the expense of fundamental social rights.

The jurists note that the original division of labor between European economic integration and national social protection has become untenable, as national systems of social protection and domestic labor legislation are under pressure in an increasingly competitive environment. Unless the EU better aligns its legislation and policies with international and European international human rights law in the area of social rights, they add, it is the very legitimacy of the European project that shall be further questioned.

The jurists list four key measures that could be adopted immediately – with no need for treaty or legislative revisions – to bridge the gap between the economic and the social dimensions of European integration.

  1. In the context of the European Semester, EU recommendations should be assessed in terms of their impacts on social rights.
  2. Participation of parliaments, social partners and civil society in the European Semester must be strengthened.
  3. Where the current legal framework already allows deviation from fiscal convergence rules, these should be interpreted so that the need to respect social rights is understood as an “exceptional circumstance” warranting flexibility.
  4. Pending the accession of the EU to the European Social Charter, social rights provisions in the EU Charter of fundamental rights must be interpreted in line with the practice of the European Committee of Social Rights.

The full text of the Call to Action is available in the following languages: EN | FR | NL | ES | PT | EL

Press contact:  Olivier De Schutter / /+32 488482004


  • Prof. Olivier De Schutter (UCLouvain), Member of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Prof. Csilla Kollonay Lehoczky (Central European University) former member of the European Committee of Social Rights (2001-2012)
  • Prof. Zdzislaw Kedzia (WSB Wroclaw, UAM Poznan), Member (former Chair) of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, President of the Global Campus of Human Rights (Venice)
  • Prof. Gerard Quinn, Wallenberg Chair (Raoul Wallenberg Institute) & Leeds University, former First Vice President of the European Committee on Social Rights
  • Prof. Colm O'Cinneide (University College London), former Vice-president of the European Committee on Social Rights.
  • Prof. Ana Maria Guerra Martins (University of Lisbon, Faculty of Law), Former Judge of the Portuguese Constitutional Court
  • Prof. Niklas Bruun (Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki and Stockholm University), Former Member of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) and the UN CEDAW Committee
  • Prof. Filip Dorssemont, UCLouvain (Uclouvain-Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
  • Prof. Mélanie Schmitt, Senior Lecturer, Université de Strasbourg
  • Prof. Margot E Salomon, Associate Professor of Law, The London School of Economics
  • Prof. Aoife Nolan, Professor of International Human Rights Law, University of Nottingham and member of the Eurpean Committee of Social Rights

Publié le 07 mai 2019