14 K.C.L.J. 1 (2003)

handle is hein.journals/kingsclj14 and id is 1 raw text is: (200) 14 KCLJ 1

RAYMOND PLANT*
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS
REVISITED
pHE ISSUE of social and economic rights looks set to become an important one
the discussion of public policy over the next year or two. This is because the
Convention on the European Union which has been charged with developing long
term thinking about the EU and formulating a constitution for the EU will recom-
mend the incorporation ofThe Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
into the proposed constitution. This Charter includes a clear set of social and eco-
nomic rights and in its preamble it recognises the significance of the European Social
Model to the EU and to the Charter. The social rights include inter alia a right to edu-
cation, access to a job placement service, a right to work, a right to social security/social
assistance, a right to benefit from medical treatment and a right of access to services
of general economic interest.'
The inclusion of these rights has been used to criticise the nature and scope of the
Charter and it has been argued that such social and economic rights are not genuine
rights, that at the best they are political aspirations and matters of debatable (and per-
haps dubious) public policy.2 As such they should play no role in such a constitu-
tional document and will be found to be non justiciable. The present legal status of
the Charter and thus the rights contained within it is rather unclear. It was solemnly
declared by the EU Council, the European Parliament and the Commission in Nice
on 7 December 2002 and has been utilised in some of the recent judgments of the
ECJ. But it is not currently directly legally enforceable. Given that part of the politi-
cal objection to the Charter lies in its recognition of the centrality of the role of social
and economic rights it seems a reasonable moment to look at the issue of the nature
and status of social and economic rights to see whether in fact these political criti-
cisms of such rights are sustainable.
The aim of this paper is to explore some of the characteristics of rights as they are
generally conceived, features which in the view of critics entail that social and eco-
nomic rights, including rights to income, cannot be regarded as genuine rights. I shall
not seek to develop a general theory of rights because of limitations of space. Rather
* King's College London and House of Lords.
1. See for example the House of Lords Report, The Future Status of the EU Charter of Human Rights 6th Report
2002-3 HOL paper 48.
2. See the evidence in 1 above.

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