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Chapter 19: Social Policy and Employment

Chapter 19 of the acquis - Social Policy and Employment - consists of basic social standards that Member States accepted upon joining the EU. The purpose of these standards is to support application and development of European social model defined by the European Commission in 1994 as „common values comprising democracy and individual rights, free collective negotiating, market economy, equal opportunities for everyone and social protection and solidarity.”

Regulation of social matters in the Community of European states, which eventually led to formation of the European Union, is rooted in the first Treaty - Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, signed in Paris in 1951. This Treaty comprised relevant provisions with social character that deal with improvement of working and living conditions of coal and steel workers, like those provisions concerning opening new workplaces, improvement of working conditions and salaries and free movement of workers within the Community. Later on, founding treaties further delegated competences to other social policy areas and finally with the Lisbon Treaty, signed in 2007, social policy falls within the areas where the EU shares competences with Member States. Pursuant to the Article 153 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union, EU supports and complements Member States’ activities in the social policy area. Today, Chapter 19 Social Policy and Employment includes minimum standards in the areas of labour law, equal opportunities, safety and health at work and fight against discrimination. Beside law sources created by the EU institutions, those standards have their stronghold in international agreements related to employment, labour and social matters, like relevant conventions of the International Labour Organisation. When it comes to fighting discrimination and equal opportunities, these issues are fundamentally covered by the Chapter 19 with special accent given to employment aspects, whereas Chapter 23 Judiciary and Fundamental Rights covers cultural and minority rights as well as fighting violence against women.

Beside the adoption of minimum standards via legal acts, Member States participate in cooperation processes in the areas of employment policy, social inclusion and social protection. In those areas so-called open method of cooperation has been applied which is in essence voluntary process of political cooperation based on agreement about common goals and indicators that make possible measurement of success in realization of set goals. Also, new strategic framework of EU development - Europe Strategy 2020, adopted in 2010 - consists of numerous priorities in the areas of employment and social policy that are elaborated in more detail in accompanying documents - European platform for fighting poverty and social exclusion and Agenda for new skills and new workplaces.

Row of institutions and bodes within the EU is taking care of application and development of European social model, first of all Directorate General for employment, social affairs and inclusion. Out of all expert bodies within European Commission, the most important are Committee for employment and Social protection committee. Among EU agencies, the most important for social policy area are European agency for safety and health at work, European foundation for the improvement of living and working conditions as well as Institute for gender equality. For the application of European policies in these areas, numerous instruments are being used, like European social fund. It is the major financial instrument established in 1957 which EU uses to support implementation of its employment strategy and to contribute to the social inclusion efforts. In order to support application of the open method of cooperation, Programme for employment and social solidarity PROGRESS 2007-2013 was established.

Connection with the EU accession process

Stabilisation and Association Agreement between European Communities and their Member States and the Republic of Serbia (SAA) introduces alignment with legal framework of the EU as one of the major obligations for the Republic of Serbia, since signing the SAA. In the area of the social policy, this obligation is specifically determined for the areas dealing with working conditions, especially safety and health at work and equal opportunities, regulated by the Article 79. Besides that, Article 101 of the SAA, cooperation in the social policy area has been determined with aim to support Serbia in the process of harmonization with the EU legal framework. In the area of employment, cooperation is pointed to alleviating employment policy reforms in Serbia, in the context of strengthening economic reforms and integrations. Cooperation will be also directed towards accommodating social security system with new economic and social demands and will include alignment of Serbia’s legislation on working conditions and equal opportunities for women and man, persons with disabilities, minority and other sensitive groups, as well as on the improvement of level of health protection and safety of employees. 

Contribution by: Ivan Sekulović

NOPS baner lat

Open Society Foundations

Regional Research Promotion Programme