From the Charter of Fundamental Rights to the Crisis, the State of the Art
As Europe struggles with the most profound economic and social crises in recent history, what happens to the promises of freedom, democracy, equality and respect for the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person proclaimed in the Preamble of the Treaty on European Union? How does the European Union intend to demonstrate its commitment to fundamental social rights at a time of widespread deregulation and an increasingly precarious labour market? How can we further enhance the democratic and efficient functioning of European institutions when there is a growing distance between citizens and political elites?
This publication is based on papers given at the international conference «Citizenship and Solidarity in the European Union – from the Charter of Fundamental Rights to the Crisis: The State of the Art», which took place in the School of Law at the University of Minho, Portugal, in May 2012. The line-up of contributors includes scholars from southern and northern Europe and Brazil, and together the papers constitute a lively and productive debate about the future of Europe.
Equality, Solidarity and the Charter in Time of Crisis. A Case Study of Dismissal (Catherine Barnard)
University of Cambridge
There have already been a number of references to the Court of Justice on the question of whether reforms to national labour law (mandated by the EU/IMF) are compatible with the Charter.1 In all such cases to date the Court has found the reference inadmissible. The Court’s reluctance to hear such cases is understandable. The stakes could not be higher. On the one hand, huge sums of money are involved, together with the future of the EMU project. On the other hand, national labour standards are at threat, matters which have traditionally been at the core of state sovereignty. This was reflected in the original settlement of the Treaty of Rome: the realisation of the four freedoms was to be delivered at EU level while social policy was to be left to the Member States.2
This original settlement has since been disturbed. First, there is a growing, albeit patchy, volume of social legislation at EU level, thus displacing the exclusivity of the national systems. Second, in the controversial line of case law beginning with the decisions in Viking3 and ← 303 | 304 → Laval,4 the four freedoms, rather than running in parallel with national social policy, have actually made incursions into it. Third, the EU’s response to the economic crisis has also undermined national labour law. For example, in the EuroPlus Pact of March 20115 the eurozone states (and others) voluntarily agreed to review national labour standards as part of...
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