In its analysis, EAPN judges the EU Constitutional Treaty in terms of whether it provides the legal and practical instruments, and shows the political intention to eradicate poverty in the European Union and provide social rights and a voice to people experiencing poverty, social exclusion and discrimination. EAPN’s intention is also to contribute to an informed public debate about the Constitutional Treaty and in particular the aspects of the Constitution relating to social rights and the fight against poverty and social exclusion.
“If the European Union is to retain the confidence of its peoples, it must show that it can respond to their needs. This is particularly true for those experiencing poverty, exclusion and inequalities”, states Fintan Farrell, Director of EAPN. “Since the Treaty of Rome, the European Treaties have mainly centred on market integration, and later monetary union and budgetary policy. This has been important in stimulating economic growth, but it has led to an imbalance between the economic and social sides of the European project which is not sustainable and is out of line with citizens’ demands”.
An important but limited step forward
EAPN, at EU and national level, has argued in successive Treaty negotiations, for:
- Naming the eradication of poverty and the fight against social exclusion as Objectives of the Union
- Putting in place practical mechanisms to enable the EU to eradicate poverty,
- An enforceable Charter of Fundamental Rights, linking economic and social rights with political, cultural and other rights,
- Greater transparency, accountability and involvement of civil society, particularly including the voices of people experiencing poverty, exclusion and inequalities and the NGOs in which they participate, in decision-making.
In all of these areas, the Constitution represents an important but limited step forward. One can resume EAPN’s analysis as follows:
- Commitment, in the objectives of the Constitutional Treaty, that the EU “shall combat social exclusion” (Article I-3-3).
- Incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Part II, reinforced by Article I-9).
- Inclusion of the new cross-cutting Article III-117, which reads: “(…) 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".
- Inclusion of the horizontal article lll-118 which states: "(…) the Union shall aim to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation".
- Protection for ‘services of general economic interest’ in Article III-122.
- Progress in the field of gender equality (Articles I-3, III-116, III-124, III-214).
- The Sections on Economic Policy, Monetary Policy and Employment Policy (Articles III-178, III 185 and III-204 respectively) all require Member States and the European System of Central Banks to “contribute to the Union’s Objectives, as defined in Article I-3” (including the fight against social exclusion).
- Commitment (Articles II-78, III-266-1) that any asylum policy must conform to the Geneva Refugee Convention.
- New legal base for the Institutions’ relations with civil society (Art. I-47).
- Refusal to name poverty in the EU, or to make its eradication an objective of the Union (Article I-3-4).
- No chapter on social inclusion, on the lines of the chapter on employment policy (III-203-208).
- The additions to the ‘General Provisions Governing the Interpretation and application of the Charter of fundamental rights’ may make it more difficult for people to access rights.
- Failure to extend Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) to social inclusion and anti-discrimination policies.
- It is questionable whether Article III-122 on ‘services of general economic interest’ is strong enough to resist the current ‘neo-liberal’ ideological and economic tide, and to counter-balance the provisions promoting ‘free movement of goods and services’.
- Article III-210-2 specifically excludes the fight against social exclusion from the areas where “framework laws may establish minimum requirements for gradual implementation…”
- Some of the Sections on Economic Policy, Monetary Policy and Employment Policy (Articles III-178, III 185 and III-204 respectively) are unchanged from the previous Treaties and it is not clear how the ‘growth at any price’ philosophy which imbues their wording will be reconciled with the new Objectives.
- The Protocol on Asylum introduces the concept of ‘safe countries’, which contradicts the right to individual assessment of the need for asylum.
See the full text of EAPN’s analysis of the EU Constitution.
For further information, please contact Vincent Forest (Information officer) or Fintan Farrell (Director), tel. +32 2 230 44 55 – fax. +32 2 230 97 33 – E-mail: email@example.com – Website: www.eapn.org