Since the 1957 Treaty establishing the European Economic Community the European Social Fund (ESF) has endeavoured to make the jobless of today into the workers of tomorrow.
Article 146 TEC
Article 146 TEC (ex Article 123) states the transformational aim of the European Social Fund. Located in Chapter 2 The European Social Fund, under the current Title XI Social policy, education, vocational training and youth, the main aim of the ESF is to improve employment opportunities for workers in the internal market and to contribute to raising the standard of living.
At a more concrete level, the aim of the ESF is to
– render the employment of workers easier
– increase their geographical mobility
– increase their occupational mobility
– facilitate their adaptation to industrial changes and changes in production systems.
The European Social Fund operates especially through vocational training and retraining.
These objectives bring to mind several related aims of the European Community, such as free movement of persons (in the internal market), social and territorial cohesion, employment, vocational training and since 2000 the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.
The current Article 146 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), as published in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/111:
Article 146 TEC
In order to improve employment opportunities for workers in the internal market and to contribute thereby to raising the standard of living, a European Social Fund is hereby established in accordance with the provisions set out below; it shall aim to render the employment of workers easier and to increase their geographical and occupational mobility within the Community, and to facilitate their adaptation to industrial changes and to changes in production systems, in particular through vocational training and retraining.
Original Lisbon Treaty (ToL)
Article 2, point 121 of the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) makes Chapter 2 on the European Social Fund into a Title of its own (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/82):
EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND
121) Chapter 2 shall be renumbered TITLE X.
This means that Article 146 TEC undergoes no specific amendments. The ‘Community’ is replaced by the ‘Union’ according to the horizontal amendment mentioned in point 2(a) on page 42.
The Table of equivalences of the original Treaty of Lisbon tells us that the Chapter on the European Social Fund was to become Title XI. Article 146 TEC first became Article 146 TFEU (ToL), then to be renumbered Article 162 TFEU in the consolidated versions of the amending treaties (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/216–217).
Consolidated Lisbon Treaty
The renumbered Article with the horizontal amendment replacing ‘Community’ by ‘Union’, Article 162 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), appears as follows in the consolidated TFEU, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/119:
THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND
Article 162 TFEU
(ex Article 146 TEC)
In order to improve employment opportunities for workers in the internal market and to contribute thereby to raising the standard of living, a European Social Fund is hereby established in accordance with the provisions set out below; it shall aim to render the employment of workers easier and to increase their geographical and occupational mobility within the Union, and to facilitate their adaptation to industrial changes and to changes in production systems, in particular through vocational training and retraining.
The Lisbon Treaty places the European Social Fund within the context of strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion within the European Union (Article 174 TFEU).
Article 175(1) TFEU includes the ESF among the instruments to support these aims:
Article 175 TFEU
(ex Article 159 TEC)
Member States shall conduct their economic policies and shall coordinate them in such a way as, in addition, to attain the objectives set out in Article 174. The formulation and implementation of the Union's policies and actions and the implementation of the internal market shall take into account the objectives set out in Article 174 and shall contribute to their achievement. The Union shall also support the achievement of these objectives by the action it takes through the Structural Funds (European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, Guidance Section; European Social Fund; European Regional Development Fund), the European Investment Bank and the other existing Financial Instruments.
Within the treaty framework, the European Social Fund has not only contributed to adaptation by workers, but adapted itself to evolving Community priorities. Ahead of the current programmes, from 2007, the Commission’s Scadplus web page offered the following summary of the ESF norms (latest update 2 January 2006):
The Commission’s Directorate-General Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities offers a portal to the European Social Fund:
The ESF’s role in promoting the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs is clearly emphasised.