The rights’ foundations of solidarity: Social and economic rights in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

European integration has, it is often argued, beenmarked by a bias towards market freedoms to the detriment of social values and rights. This paper discusses to what extent the Charter of Fundamental Rights is a step towards redressing this inbalance by introducing a social fundament to the market values hitherto conceived.

ARENA Working Paper 01/2003 (pdf)

Agustín José Menéndez

‘Rights to solidarity’ is a rather new expression, recently minted in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In this chapter, the term will be used to refer to social and economic rights; the basic question that will be posed is what the Charter has to say about the tension between social values and market rules implicit in the European Union. Does the Charter favour the four economic freedoms or does it enhance the chances of realising the basic social European values embodied in national welfare states? European integration has been marked by a certain imbalance between market-making (usually referred to as negative economic integration) and market-redressing (that is, social regulation aimed at framing markets, and eventually rectifying its distributive outcomes). This is especially striking given that all Member States are mature welfare states, characterised by a balance of market-making and market-redressing at the core of their socio-economic structure.

The second section of the chapter aims at making legal and normative sense of the provisions on ‘rights to solidarity’ contained in the Charter. Arguably, the Charter reflects the present imbalance of European integration by strengthening the right to private property before provisions of social rights; however, a contextual interpretation of the provisions of the Charter reveals that social policies might be reinforced, not weakened, by the Charter. Thus, ‘rights to solidarity’ might be affirmed as the canon of arguments requiring a balancing of social rights and economic freedoms.

Tags: regulation, democracy, Social Charter, legitimacy
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM