Last year, EASPD commissioned a researcher, Professor Nikolaus Dimmel from the University of Salzburg, to do a legal analysis on article 9 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; or in other words the horizontal social clause.
The Social Clause states that “in defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall take into account requirements linked to the 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”.
In the study, Prof. Dimmel established that article 9 was particularly difficult to interpret insofar as it uses abstract or vague legal terms, in an ambiguous purpose and degree of obligation and in an unclear normative quality. Nonetheless he argued that the article demands the procedural integration of matters of social policy into all of the Community’s policies as a general goal, yet without setting measurable objectives or targets. As such, he concluded that Article 9 is of binding nature from a procedural point of view, but not in terms of its substantive content”.
Based on this, EASPD argues that it is of utmost importance for all European stakeholders and policy-makers interested in pursuing a more Social route for Europe to work towards building common understanding and definition of what is meant by the criteria embedded in the social clause. In other words, it is essential that more depth is brought to what Europe understands as a high level of employment or guaranteeing adequate social protection.
Hopefully supported by other representatives of civil society, EASPD hopes to work with the European Parliament to make sure that the Social Clause is strengthened in terms of its substantive content through the development of common definitions of the social criteria. If a Member of the European Parliament is particularly interested in working on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact us in order to set up a meeting and begin the necessary proceedings to ensure a more Social Europe.