By the Agreement signed at Schengen on 14 June 1995, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands agreed that they would gradually remove their common frontier controls and introduce freedom of movement for all individuals who were nationals of the signatory Member States, other Member States or third countries.
The Schengen Convention was signed by the same five States on 19 June 1990. It lays down the arrangements and guarantees for implementing freedom of movement. It amends the relevant national laws and is subject to parliamentary ratification. Italy (1990), Spain and Portugal (1991), Greece (1992), Austria (1995), Sweden, Finland and Denmark (1996) have since joined the list of signatories, while Iceland and Norway are also parties to the Convention.
The Agreement and the Convention, together with the declarations and decisions adopted by the Schengen Executive Committee, make up what is known as the Schengen acquis. When the Treaty of Amsterdam was being drafted, it was decided to incorporate this acquis into the European Union, since it relates to one of the main objectives of the internal market, i.e. the free movement of persons. With the entry into force of the new Treaty, the Schengen acquis will be brought within the framework of the area of freedom, security and justice and the Secretariat responsible for managing intergovernmental cooperation under the Schengen system will be integrated into the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union.
It will still be possible for a smaller number of Member States to establish closer cooperation amongst themselves if they so wish.
Services of general economic interest are commercial services with a general economic utility and are accordingly subjected by the public authorities to specific public-service obligations (Article 90 of the EC Treaty). Transport, energy and communications services are prime examples.
With the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, a new Article 7d will be written into the Treaty establishing the European Community, acknowledging the place occupied by services of general economic interest in the shared values of the Union and their role in promoting social and territorial cohesion. Article 7d also states that such services must operate on the basis of principles and conditions which enable them to fulfil their functions.
The simplification of legislation means the weeding out of superfluous legislation by rigorous application of the principles of necessity and proportionality. It mainly involves the recasting and formal or informal consolidation of legislation.
This concept has grown in importance since the White Paper on the Completion of the Single Market and was explicitly put forward by the Edinburgh European Council. Over the past decade a concentrated effort has been made to establish a market guaranteeing the four freedoms, but this has meant a wealth of European legislation. Simplification of this legislation has now become a priority in order to ensure the necessary transparency and effectiveness of Community action. A pilot programme (Simpler legislation for the Internal market - SLIM) covering four specific areas was introduced in May 1996 and could be extended to other areas.
A declaration on the quality of the drafting of Community legislation is attached to the Final Act of the Intergovernmental Conference. It recommends that the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission lay down guidelines for improving the form of legislation and calls on these institutions to make a determined effort to speed up the official consolidation of legislative texts.
The single institutional framework is the practical expression of the principle that there is only one set of institutions. It presupposes that those Member States wishing to integrate and cooperate still further will agree to act through shared institutions. It also requires the other, non-participating Member States to accept that shared institutions can be used for operations to knit the Union closer together without a particular Member State or States being involved. The Social Policy Protocol and Agreement are an example of this.
The Social Charter was adopted in 1989 in the form of a declaration by all the Member States except the United Kingdom. It is seen as a political instrument containing "moral obligations" whose object is to guarantee that certain social rights are respected in the countries concerned. These primarily relate to the labour market, vocational training, equal opportunities and the working environment. It also contains an explicit request to the Commission to put forward proposals for translating the content of the Social Charter into legislative acts. The Social Charter has been followed up by social action programmes.
Following the election of a new government in May 1997, the United Kingdom is now expected to join the signatory States.
Social dialogue is the term used to describe a joint consultation procedure involving the social partners at European level (UNICE, CEEP, ESC). It involves discussion, joint action and sometimes negotiations between the European social partners, and discussions between the social partners and the Union institutions.
The dialogue was started by the European Commission in 1985, and Article 118b of the Treaty (as amended by the Single European Act) formally requires the Commission to develop it. So far the outcome has been fifteen joint opinions on economic growth, the introduction of new technology, education, vocational training and other subjects. Under the Social Policy Agreement to which fourteen of the Member States are parties, social dialogue may also lead to contractual forms of relations, including agreements, the implementation of which is subject to a decision by the Council on a proposal from the Commission. There are two agreements of this type between employers and labour to date - on parental leave and on part-time working.
Besides this ongoing dialogue between the two sides of industry, the Commission organised the first European Forum on social policy in March 1996, which brought together representatives of voluntary organisations, non-governmental organisations, trade unions, employers' organisations, the European Union institutions and the Member States.
The Commission is required to consult various social partners when it wants to submit proposals in this field. This social dialogue occurs via the three main organisations representing the social partners at European level:
The Commission's job is therefore to take all necessary steps to encourage and facilitate consultation with the social partners on the future development of Community action and on the content of any proposals on the European Union's social policy, which is essentially concerned with the labour market.
A consultative assembly of economic and social partners in Europe was created as early as 1957 with the Treaty of Rome. Its role was to involve these various interest groups in building the common market. Its members are drawn from representatives of three categories: employers, workers and independent occupations. The Single European Act and the Treaty on European Union increased the number of areas in which this assembly, the Economic and Social Committee, must be consulted by the other institutions when they wish to introduce legislation in the social sphere.
Social policy is an area in which powers are shared between the Community and the Member States; it is concerned with improving living and working conditions for the labour force "so as to make possible their harmonisation while the improvement is being maintained" (Treaty establishing the European Community). The fourteen-Member State Social Policy Agreement (the UK having opted out) adds to these objectives the promotion of employment, proper social protection, dialogue between management and labour, the development of human resources and the combating of exclusion. The existence of these two texts (Treaty and Agreement) means that social policy rests on two distinct legal bases laying down different decision-making procedures:
Following the election of a new government in May 1997, the United Kingdom has ended its opt-out on social affairs and will shortly be implementing the directives adopted by the other fourteen Member States under the Social Policy Agreement. The United Kingdom also supported the incorporation of that Agreement - whose provisions have now been strengthened - in the Treaty establishing the European Community with the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam.
The Social Policy Agreement is annexed to the Social Policy Protocol, which is itself annexed to the Treaty on European Union. It was signed by fourteen of the Member States (the United Kingdom opted out) and sets out the social policy objectives for which the 1989 Social Charter paved the way: the promotion of employment, improved living and working conditions, the combating of exclusion, the development of human resources and so on. It also lays down the procedure for the adoption of social policy measures and clearly acknowledges the vital part played by management and labour in the dialogue on social policy.
Following the election of a new government in May 1997, the United Kingdom announced its intention of abandoning its opt-out clause on social policy. This means that once the Amsterdam Treaty enters into force, the Social Policy Agreement - whose provisions have now been strengthened - will be incorporated in the Social Chapter of the Treaty establishing the European Community. A new legal base will be created for equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women at work, and mention will be made of the fight against social exclusion. Finally, an explicit reference to fundamental rights will add a new dimension to the objectives of social policy.
The Social Policy Protocol was adopted by the European Council in December 1991 at Maastricht. It is annexed to the Treaty on European Union and marks further progress on the European Social Charter. It was signed by eleven Member States (since the United Kingdom did not share the social policy objectives of the other Member States) who wished to make major advances on the basis of the Social Policy Agreement annexed to the Protocol. Following enlargement of the Union to include Austria, Finland and Sweden, the Protocol now reflects the views of fourteen Member States.
Following the election of a new Government in May 1997, the United Kingdom decided to join the Social Policy Agreement. Once the Treaty of Amsterdam enters into force, the Social Policy Protocol will cease to apply.
The Stability and Growth Pact should be seen in the light of Stage III of Economic and Monetary Union, which will begin on 1 January 1999. Its aim is to ensure that the Member States continue their budgetary discipline efforts once the single currency has been introduced.
In practical terms the Pact comprises a European Council resolution (adopted at Amsterdam on 17 June 1997) and two Council Regulations of 7 July 1997 laying detailed technical arrangements (one on the surveillance of budgetary positions and coordination of economic policies and the other on implementing the excessive deficit procedure).
In the medium term the Member States have undertaken to pursue the objective of a balanced or nearly balanced budget and to present the Council and the Commission with a stability programme by 1 March 1999 (the programme will then be updated annually). Along the same lines, States not taking part in Stage III of EMU will be required to submit a convergence programme.
The Stability and Growth Pact opens the way for the Council to penalise any participating Member State which fails to take appropriate measures to end an excessive deficit. Initially, the penalty would take the form of a non-interest-bearing deposit with the Community, but it could be converted into a fine if the excessive deficit is not corrected within two years.
The subsidiarity principle is intended to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that constant checks are made as to whether action at Community level is justified in the light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level. Specifically, it is the principle whereby the Union does not take action (except in the areas which fall within its exclusive competence) unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. It is closely bound up with the principles of proportionality and necessity, which require that any action by the Union should not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaty.
The Edinburgh European Council of December 1992 defined the basic principles of the concept of subsidiarity and laid down the guidelines for interpreting Article 3b, which entrenches subsidiarity in the Treaty on European Union. Its conclusions were set out in a declaration which still serves as the cornerstone of the subsidiarity principle. The overall approach which follows from this declaration has been taken up in a Protocol on the application of the principles of subisidarity and proportionality which will be annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community with the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam.
Each year the European Commission produces a report ("Better lawmaking") for the European Council and the European Parliament which is devoted mainly to the application of the subsidiarity principle.
The suspension clause will be written into the Treaty on European Union on the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam.
Under this clause, if any Member State breaches the principles on which the Union is founded (liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law), some of its rights may be suspended (e.g. its voting rights in the Council), although its obligations would still be binding.
The concept of sustainable development refers to a form of economic growth which satisfies society's needs in terms of well-being in the short, medium and - above all - long terms. It is founded on the assumption that development must meet today's needs without jeopardising the prospects of future generations. In practical terms, it means creating the conditions for long-term economic development with due respect for the environment. The Copenhagen world summit for sustainable development (March 1995) stressed the need to combat social exclusion and protect public health.
With the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, an explicit reference to sustainable development will be written into the recitals of the Treaty on European Union.
Globalization and Workers' Rights