Tuesday, 3 March 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
430. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Labour if an estimate has been made of the cost to employment in Ireland of the full implementation of all the provisions in the European Social Charter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen): The EC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights was adopted in the form of a solemn declaration by 11 Heads of State and Government at the European Council in Strasbourg on 8 and 9 December 1989. It postulates a set of principles relating to social rights and does not purport to offer a shorthand version of legislative programmes. The charter envisages initiatives being taken to implement these social rights in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity which implies that action at Community level is only warranted where it has added value and where there is a need for such Community action.
The charter does not involve the imposition of a unified system on member states and this is reflected in its many references to national laws, collective agreements and to other practices which exist or are currently in force at various appropriate levels in the member states of the Community. Consequently, it is inappropriate to view the objectives enshrined in the charter as necessarily requiring legislative action at the European Community level.
In view of the nature and content of the charter it is not possible to arrive at an estimate of the costs which might arise as a consequence to any initiatives to give effect to any of its principles in Ireland.
Under the terms of the charter, the European Commission was invited to submit to the Council of Ministers possible initiatives which fall within its powers, with a view to the adoption of legal instruments for the effective implementation, as and when the Internal Market is completed, of those rights which it considered relevant to the Community's area of competence. The Commission's response took the form of an action programme which features 47 separate initiatives, not all of which come within the jurisdiction of the Council of Ministers.
Eight of these represent legal instruments which have already been adopted  by Council, a common position has been agreed on four such instruments while 16 proposed instruments are currently the subject of technical discussion in the Council's social questions working group. A total of 14 measures have yet to be submitted to the Council by the Commission. A further five items which have been submitted by the Commission comprise reports or communications on which no further action is required by Council.
Ireland is committed to the Community Charter as a basis for achieving a strong social dimension to complement the economic objective of completion of the Single Market and we are co-operating constructively in examination of each proposal submitted to the Council under the Commission's action programme. Our approach is to examine each such proposal on its merits seeking to achieve a fair balance between desirable social progress in the interests of workers and the capacity of employers and Governments to undertake the corresponding obligations. We assess each proposal by reference to its implications for employment in Ireland which remains the main priority of the Government.
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