Economic and employment policies are primarily carried out by the EU member states, but regarded as a matter of common concern and coordinated at European Union level.
We look at the treaty framework, the current treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon, before offering a few pointers about EU employment policies for further reading.
The current Article 126 (ex Article 109o) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), under the Title VIII Employment, sets out the member states’ employment policies as the primary means to achieve the strategic employment aims of the European Community (European Union).
But the member states do not act in a vacuum, regardless of each other or the European Community as a whole. Their actions are tempered or enhanced by the coordinated strategy for employment referred to in the preceding Article 125 TEC.
To the employment objectives mentioned in Article 125 TEC, Article 126 TEC adds action consistent with the broad economic policy guidelines adopted by the Council.
Where, pursuant to Article 99(1) TEC the economic policies of the member states are to be regarded as a common concern and coordinated within the Council, Article 126(2) TEC lays down an obligation for the member states to regard promoting employment as a common concern and to coordinate their employment actions within the Council, although with the somewhat unclear proviso that this takes place ‘having regard to national practices related to the responsibilities of management and labour’.
The existing Article 126 TEC (in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/102):
Article 126 TEC
1. Member States, through their employment policies, shall contribute to the achievement of the objectives referred to in Article 125 in a way consistent with the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the Member States and of the Community adopted pursuant to Article 99(2).
2. Member States, having regard to national practices related to the responsibilities of management and labour, shall regard promoting employment as a matter of common concern and shall coordinate their action in this respect within the Council, in accordance with the provisions of Article 128.
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.
The changes to the Title on employment were minimal. Article 2, point 111 deleted a few words from Article 125 TEC and the following point (112) concerned the common commercial policy. Thus, Article 126 TEC and the following ones underwent only horizontal or technical amendments (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/79).
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 126 TEC and TFEU (ToL) was to be renumbered Article 146 TFEU in the consolidated version of the amending treaties (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/214).
Consolidated Lisbon Treaty
Article 146 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) takes over the contents of the existing Article 126 TEC. The ‘Community’ is replace by the ‘Union’, according to the new terminology, and the Articles referred to have been adapted to the renumbering. See the consolidated TFEU, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/112:
Article 146 TFEU
(ex Article 126 TEC)
1. Member States, through their employment policies, shall contribute to the achievement of the objectives referred to in Article 145 in a way consistent with the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the Member States and of the Union adopted pursuant to Article 121(2).
2. Member States, having regard to national practices related to the responsibilities of management and labour, shall regard promoting employment as a matter of common concern and shall coordinate their action in this respect within the Council, in accordance with the provisions of Article 148.
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
(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 October 2008 the Commission published its twentieth annual employment report, Employment in Europe 2008 (292 pages), accessible through: