Social Policy

Social Policy in Europe

Description of Social policy

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes social policy in the following terms: [1] The essence of EU social policy – especially since the Commission presidency(1985-95) of Jacques Delors – has been to give the Community a ‘social dimension’ through removing control of employment conditions from national governments and harmonising them under Community law.

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs in the European Union


The Treaty of Rome (1958) included virtually no articles governing social policy. The provisions that did exist related mainly to implementing the free movement of labour and freedom of establishment within the context of the common market. The Single Act made it possible to emphasise the importance of social policy. One of the principal objectives of the Treaty of Amsterdam is to promote a high level of employment and activity.

In November 1997, the Luxembourg European Council was devoted exclusively to the employment issue.

On a proposal by the Council, the Cologne European Council (June 1999) adopted the European Employment Pact, which embodies the following elements:

improvement of the interaction between fiscal, wage, monetary, budgetary and financial policies;
further development and better implementation of the coordinated employment strategy;
comprehensive structural reform and modernisation to improve the innovative capacity, competitiveness and efficiency of the markets in goods, services and capital.

Social policy

The Strasbourg Summit (December 1989) adopted the “Charter of Workers’ fundamental Social Rights”. This initiative enables better account to be taken of the social dimension in the Community’s future development. The provisions of the European Social Charter are set out in the Treaty of Amsterdam.

The Nice Summit (2000) launched the European social agenda, the aim of which is to modernise the European social model. This improved model also made provision for including fundamental human rights in all future treaties.

The principal objectives of social policy are:

increased participation in the labour market, rising to 70% in 2010;
lifelong learning;
strengthening the social partners’ role;
the fight for more and better jobs;
the elimination of poverty and illiteracy;
enhanced investment in human capital;
combating all forms of discrimination and formulating a policy of equality between men and women.


The Maastricht Treaty provided fresh impetus to joint action in the area of public health by introducing an article dealing specifically with this sector. Under Article 152 of this treaty, a high level of protection of human health must be secured in defining and implementing all Community policies and actions.

The Treaty of Amsterdam fully recognised the importance of good public health. Member States are encouraged to adopt additional measures to reduce all health risks.

In the area of public health, the European Union’s principal objectives are to:

promote a healthy lifestyle;
prevent terminal illnesses such as AIDS and cancer;
improve public health by combating diseases connected to infections, accidents, doping and (rare) hereditary diseases;
monitor and analyse improvements in public health in EU Member States;
guarantee economic support for high-quality healthcare for the elderly;
improve (access to) information.

Consumer protection

European consumer policy was initiated during the 1970s when the European Commission formulated five fundamental rights of consumers:

right to the protection of health and safety;
right to the protection of economic interests;
right to compensation;
right to information and education;
right to be represented.

The 1986 Single European Act introduced for the first time the concept of “consumers” into a treaty. Completion of the single market on 1 January 1993 then allowed further measures to be adopted in the area of consumer policy. The Maastricht Treaty introduced consumer protection into common policies. The general objective is that the Community must contribute towards strengthening consumer protection. The Treaty of Amsterdam in turn gave this policy new momentum. Under this treaty, protecting the health, safety and economic interests of consumers and promoting their right to information and the right to organise themselves in order to safeguard their interests are fundamental objectives of this policy.


Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

See Also

Social Chapter
Social Charter

Leave a Comment