Powers not conferred upon (attributed to) the European Community (EC) belong to the member states, and Community action shall anyway clear the tests of subsidiarity and proportionality, but in the case of the aim of a high level of employment the high contracting parties have decided to further underline their leading role by limiting the scope for EC action.
In this post we look at the basic structure of member state and European Community (European Union) competences concerning employment. Later posts can then turn to the concrete EC (EU) actions intended under the Title Employment in the existing Treaty establishing the European Community and the Treaty of Lisbon (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).
The current Article 127 (ex Article 109p) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), under the Title VIII Employment, essentially reiterates both the general employment aim – a high level of employment – and the restricted role of the European Community (European Union) in achieving this objective following from other treaty provisions.
The European Community (EC) shall contribute to a high level of employment, but the employment policies are ‘owned’ by the member states.
The EC encourages cooperation between member states.
The EC – if necessary – complements member states’ action.
Not content with the expression of conferred or attributed powers and the principles of subsidiarity and necessity (proportionality) in Article 5 TEC, the high contracting parties remind us in Article 127(1) TEC that the competences of the member states shall be respected.
Article 127(2) TEC sets out the horizontal character of employment-related policies, although the objective of a high level of employment with a fairly weak expression shall be ‘taken into consideration’ when EC policies and activities are formulated and implemented.
The existing Article 126 TEC (in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/102):
Article 127 TEC
1. The Community shall contribute to a high level of employment by encouraging cooperation between Member States and by supporting and, if necessary, complementing their action. In doing so, the competences of the Member States shall be respected.
2. The objective of a high level of employment shall be taken into consideration in the formulation and implementation of Community policies and activities.
Original Lisbon Treaty
The Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) is still on its rocky road to possible entry into force, but in many instances it is the most up-to-date manifestation of what the member state governments want the treaties to say.
But the treaty reform process, at least since the Treaty of Nice, has been focused on so called institutional innovations. With a few notable exceptions, most areas of Community policy have only been updated and adjusted technically to the different reform treaty versions: the draft Constitution, the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty.
Thus, the changes to the Title on employment in the Lisbon Treaty are minimal. Article 2, point 111 deleted a few words from Article 125 TEC and the following point (112) concerned the common commercial policy.
Consequently, Article 126 TEC and the following ones underwent only horizontal or technical amendments (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/79). In both paragraphs of Article 127 the ‘Community’ was replaced by the ‘Union’.
The Table of equivalences of the original Treaty of Lisbon tells us that Title VIII Employment was to be renumbered Title IX and that Article 127 TEC and TFEU (ToL) was to be renumbered Article 147 TFEU in the consolidated version of the amending treaties (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/214).
Consolidated Lisbon Treaty
Article 147 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) takes over the contents of the existing Article 127 TEC with the minimal change in terminology and the renumbering noted above.
As a consequence, the consolidated TFEU, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/112, looks like this:
Article 147 TFEU
(ex Article 127 TEC)
1. The Union shall contribute to a high level of employment by encouraging cooperation between Member States and by supporting and, if necessary, complementing their action. In doing so, the competences of the Member States shall be respected.
2. The objective of a high level of employment shall be taken into consideration in the formulation and implementation of Union policies and activities.
Employment policy coordination
Readers interested in the practical side of the European employment strategy can start with the Introduction and the links offered by the European Commission’s DG Employment and Social Affairs:
Integrated guidelines – Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs
The economic and employment guidelines (BEPGs and Employment Guidelines), the main focus of the spring European Council, have been integrated and subsumed under the relaunched Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs, but essentially adopted without change for a second three year period (2008–2010) last spring.
The first ten pages of the revised Presidency Conclusions of the European Council 13–14 March 2008, including the references to the National Reform Programmes and the Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs, are available as a gateway to understanding the system and the state of play (Council document 7652/1/08 REV 1):
(The following stage, for someone digging deeper, would be to look for formal adoption by the Council in its ECOFIN and EPSCO formations.)
Employment in Europe 2008 Report
A wealth of information is contained in the Commission’s annual employment reports.
On 18 November 2008 the Commission published its twentieth annual employment report, Employment in Europe 2008 (292 pages), accessible through:
According to the Commission, the Employment in Europe 2008 Report addresses topics that are high on the European Union's employment policy agenda. It gives a comprehensive overview of the employment situation in the EU, as well as an analysis of key labour market issues, including immigration, post-enlargement intra-EU labour mobility, quality of work and the link between education and employment.
For a quick overview, read the Commission’s MEMO/08/719 Employment in Europe:
At the publication of the 2008 Employment in Europe Report the Commission highlighted labour immigration into the European Union and mobility of the workforce within the EU, so these questions were reflected in the media reports.