Trying to understand the European Union objective of a highly competitive market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, it feels natural to take a look at the existing body of EU law (acquis) in the area of social policy.
The Commission staff working document (SWD) accompanying the communication on launching the consultation on a European pillar of social rights COM(2016) 127 final and the first preliminary outline of the pillar COM(2016) 127 final ANNEX 1 provides and overview:
The EU social acquis; Strasbourg, 8.3.2016 SWD(2016) 50 final (17 pages; available only in English)
The paper starts with the following introduction (page 3):
EU primary law, consisting of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights (EU Charter), bestows a social mission and mandate on the EU. This social mandate is the result of a long and gradual development. Social policy in the broad sense began as a means of securing market integration, and has developed into a method to deliver social policies. This paper focuses on this "acquis", in a legal sense.
The introduction is followed by a clear summary of the main primary law provisions in the social policy area (pages 4-6), followed by an overview of social rights and principles in EU secondary law (from page 6), soft law (from page 12) and international law (page 17).
Fernandes and Rinaldi
There is a genuine “Social Europe” today, but it is not sufficient to address the challenges currently facing the EU, say the authors Sofia Fernandes and David Rinaldi in:
Is there such a thing as “Social Europe”? Notre Europe - Jacques Delors Institute (6 September 2016; 6 pages)
The authors are convinced that the European Pillar of Social Rights alone will not suffice to earn the EU a “social triple-A”. It comes down to implementing a clause introduced in the Treaty of Lisbon, which has so far been ignored: the “horizontal social clause” under Article 9 of the TFEU, which stipulates that all EU policies and activities must be defined taking 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.
According to Fernandes and Rinaldi, the initiatives need to focus on three priorities (page 3):
1) establishing an EU and EMU architecture that ensures socio-economic convergence;
2) laying the ground for a genuine European labour market that fosters fair mobility;
3) supporting social investment and investment in human capital to build a society that is both more productive and inclusive.