Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Roger J. Goebel


Social policy is one of the most important areas of European Community action. The EEC Treaty specifically mentions social goals and the European Court of Justice recognizes the social as well as economic aims of the unification process. Traditionally, social legislation has been adopted pursuant to article 100 of the EEC Treaty with its generic grant of power to harmonize laws in order to achieve the common market-with article 119 serving as authority for legislation implementing equal pay for men and women. The Social Action Program adopted by the Council of Ministers in 1974 provided much needed political endorsement for social legislation. The Program soon began to bear fruit, with the European Council adopting directives on mass layoffs, safeguarding rights of employees affected by mergers or employer insolvency, equal pay and equal treatment for men and women, and worker health and safety. Nevertheless, the momentum behind the Social Action Program was largely lost in the 1980s and was regained only in 1989 with the adoption of the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers.

This Article provides the reader with an overview of Community social policy. The initial part explains the place of social policy within the framework of the EEC Treaty and describes social policy initiatives undertaken as a result of the Social Action Program. This is followed by an explanation of the circumstances leading to the adoption of the Social Charter and brief analysis of its substantive provisions.