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Thursday, 4 July 2002 - Strasbourg Final edition
Labour, social governance and globalisation

European Parliament resolution on the Commission communication to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee entitled "Promoting core Labour Standards and Improving Social governance in the context of globalisation" (COM(2001) 416 – C5-0162/2002 – 2002/2070(COS))

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Commission communication (COM(2001) 416 – C5-0162/2002),

–   having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union(1) , and its decision of 14 November 2000 approving the draft Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union(2) ,

–   having regard to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child(3) ,

–   having regard to the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Action Programme of the World Summit on Social Development of 12 March 1995,

–   having regard to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights of Work adopted by the International Labour Conference on 18 June 1998,

–   having regard to ILO Conventions No. 87 of 1948 and No. 98 of 1949 on freedom of association and the right of collective bargaining, No. 29 of 1930 and No. 1050 of 1957 on the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, No. 138 of 1973 and No.182 of 1999 on the effective abolition of child labour, No. 100 of 1951 and No. 111 of 1958 on the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation,

–   having regard to the Presidency Conclusions of the Tampere European Council of 15-16 October 1999,

–   having regard to the Commission White Paper on European Governance (COM (2001) 428)(4) and its resolution of 29 November 2001 thereon(5) ,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication entitled "The Future of the European Union - European Governance - Renewing the Community method" (COM(2001) 727),

–   having regard to its resolution of 2 July 1998 on transnational trade union rights in the European Union(6) , and in particular on the application of the ILO conventions on the right of association,

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 975/1999 of 29 April 1999, laying down the requirements for the implementation of development cooperation operations which contribute to the general objective of developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law, and to the objective of respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms(7) ,

-   having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 976/1999 of 29 April 1999 laying down the requirements for the implementation of Community operations, other than those of development cooperation, which, within the framework of Community cooperation policy, contribute to the general objective of developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law and to that of respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in third countries(8) ,

–   having regard to the Commission communication to the Council and the European Parliament of 8 May 2001 entitled 'The European Union's role in promoting human rights and democratisation in third countries' (COM(2001) 252),

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2001 on openness and democracy in international trade(9) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 January 1999 on EU standards for European enterprises operating in developing countries: towards a European Code of Conduct(10) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2000 on the Commission communication on the social policy agenda(11) ,

–   having regard to the Commission Green Paper entitled "Promoting a European framework for Corporate Social Responsibility" (COM(2001) 366),

–   having regard to Rule 47(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy, the Committee on Development and Cooperation and the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities (A5-0251/2002),

A.   whereas the Commission communication states that it is seeking to define a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to social development and respect for human rights,

B.   whereas the application of fundamental social rights constitutes, in the field of labour, an essential minimum condition in order to guarantee respect for the individual; expressing its utmost concern at the extent to which core labour standards are being violated globally, at the emergence of new forms of exploitation akin to slavery and at the exclusion of millions of other people from any form of income,

C.   whereas sustainable development requires an institutional and political environment which respects human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law; whereas economic development, social development and the fair sharing of resources should be requirements of the same order(12) ,

D.   whereas the EU should clarify its positions on social governance in the framework of the new multilateral negotiations in the WTO and whereas, on that occasion, the positions of the European Parliament should be incorporated into the Community"s strategy,

E.   whereas, although the ILO is the competent body to define and negotiate the core labour standards, increased cooperation between the ILO and WTO secretariats is essential, and the EU also has a role to play in this field, as well as in the field of social governance,

F.   whereas globalisation presupposes the re-regulation of economic and trade relations; whereas it is necessary to find new regulatory areas and instruments, to define the roles of the various actors, and to include approaches and processes at both local and global levels; whereas globalisation can only be accepted if it permits the improvement of living and working conditions and higher levels of development aid in the interests of the peoples affected; whereas there is an urgent need to respond to the serious and growing lack of equilibrium where there is a lack of binding social norms on one side and rapid liberalisation of trade and finance on the other,

G.   whereas the Commission communication focuses mainly on the strategy requiring implementation in the developing countries, at the risk of over-estimating the level of application of the core labour standards in Europe, and whereas it is therefore necessary to guarantee the actual application of these standards in Europe,

H.   whereas the follow-up mechanisms put in place by the ILO and the reports published regularly on the state of application of the eight conventions on core labour standards are not sufficient to give a relevant overview of the state of social governance in the world,

I.   whereas voluntary corporate initiatives should not take the place of the implementation of public sector standards, but should seek to achieve a higher level of protection than is offered by this body of norms,

J.   whereas the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development recognised that globalisation creates opportunities for sustained economic growth and development,

1.  Welcomes the Commission communication, which offers an opportunity to launch a debate within the European institutions on the link between globalisation, core labour standards and social development; welcomes the Commission"s moves to place the issue of core labour standards on the agenda of various international bodies, in response to calls by Parliament and the trade union and citizens" movements which have spoken out on this subject;

2.  Supports the wish to promote core labour standards in a context in which international opinion broadly agrees with the statement: "market governance has developed more quickly than social governance"; welcomes the progress made towards recognition of the universal nature of core social standards, in particular within the ILO in its eight conventions and the 1998 Declaration;

3.  Endorses the Commission proposals as set out in its conclusions and calls on the Member States and the Council to give active support to the strategy proposed;

4.  Stresses the importance of clarifying and improving relations between the EU and the ILO, and to that end:

   4.1. Calls on the Member States and the candidate countries which have not yet ratified the ILO conventions to adopt these international instruments as soon as possible,
   4.2 Calls on the Council, the Commission and the Member States to do all in their power to encourage third countries to sign the ILO conventions if they have not already done so; calls for a multilateral WTO agreement to provide incentives to observe core labour standards and require all WTO members to ratify at least the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and the eight related conventions,
   4.3. Calls on the Commission and the Council to draw up specific measures in order, on the one hand, to help the ILO to enhance the effectiveness of the instruments at its disposal, notably monitoring in the case of violation of core labour standards and, on the other hand, to optimise the use of the available instruments and machinery provided, depending on whether these are bilateral, multilateral or Community agreements, while minimising the risks of protectionism; calls on the Commission to publish the results of the ILO monitoring procedure,
   4.4. Notes that the ILO"s constitution permits the imposition of trade sanctions; reaffirms that the ILO alone should have that power and calls on the WTO to clearly state that trade sanctions imposed pursuant to an ILO decision could not be considered incompatible with the WTO Treaties; repeats its proposal that the WTO dispute settlement body should be obliged to consult the ILO and that the ILO opinion should be attached to the ruling when a trade dispute between WTO member countries involves a failure to observe core labour standards,
   4.5 Approves support for the ILO"s technical assistance measures relating to the promotion of fundamental social rights, poverty reduction and the promotion of decent working conditions, including in their financial dimension;
  4.6 Encourages the new cooperation between the Commission and the ILO with a view to promoting decent working conditions, characterised by the enforcement of labour rights, a good level of social protection and the existence of social dialogue; stresses that the EU must act to ensure full respect for the core labour standards defined in the ILO declaration of 1998; this implies, inter alia:
   - full compliance with the ban on labour by under-15s,
   - stepping up action against trafficking in people and domestic slavery,
   - a European asylum and immigration policy which encourages legal immigration as a means of combating illegal immigration and the exploitation of illegal migrant workers,
   4.7 Calls on the European Union to work within the ILO to include in core labour standards, identified at the Copenhagen summit, the promotion of equality between men and women in the field of employment and professional life which a mere reference to eliminating discrimination would not achieve;
   4.8 suggests that the holding of a European Parliament – ILO colloquy demonstrates the political will to carry forward the debate on the fundamental principles of social governance and the hierarchy of norms (commercial, social and environmental) and investments, particularly in the follow-up to AMI II; calls for other institutions, such as the Council of Europe, the World Bank, or associations, such as NGOs which are involved in this field, to take part;

5.  Calls on the Commission to pay particular attention to the work of the high level commission created by the ILO to analyse the social dimension of globalisation in a multidisciplinary way, and hopes that the EU will be fully involved in the measures and actions to be defined so as to create a better framework for globalisation;

6.  Calls on the Commission, the Council and the Member States to seek to obtain observer status for the ILO at the WTO, with a view to improving the quality of interinstitutional dialogue;

7.  Calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, to consider setting up a monitoring system, both qualitative and quantitative, on the application of the core labour standards in Europe and the candidate countries; points out the importance of the gender dimension in these studies in order to improve monitoring of the effective implementation of the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination, and calls on the Commission to incorporate this dimension into its assessments as a matter of course;

8.  Calls on the Commission to submit periodically to Parliament and the Council a report on the state of social governance in Europe and on the impact of measures seeking to promote core labour standards in the context of the Union"s bilateral and multilateral agreements;

9.  Agrees with the Commission that social cohesion implies respect for core labour standards, and calls for greater efforts to promote full employment as a major driver of social cohesion;

10.  Considers that greater respect for fundamental rights and other social rights also requires fairer international trade policies which take account of the existence of unequal partners;

11.  Notes the difficulties in tackling the problem of fundamental social standards in the current framework of the WTO; calls, therefore, on the Commission to define, and submit to Parliament, new strategies to enable social standards to find their proper place in a new international architecture, and to enable the EU"s trade policy to make a real contribution to sustainable development;

12.  Believes that the EU should intensify international dialogue encompassing the ILO, the WTO, UNCTAD and the UN as a whole, so that international labour standards can be endorsed, on a non-protectionist basis, by decisions adopted by the ILO;

13.  Endorses the decision of the Commission and Council to gear the Union"s strategy for cooperation with the developing countries towards incentive clauses and not to penalty clauses; calls on the Commission to reinforce the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), and to ensure that the fundamental labour standards component of the European Union"s new GSP are actually enforced; calls for new non-trade incentive clauses to be proposed and devised for developing countries, in the interest of development, poverty reduction and equality between men and women;

14.  Supports the need for an integrated approach in the EU"s policies; calls on the Commission to provide a clearer definition for targeted measures in the context of development cooperation programmes and to promote coordinated aid, both bilateral and multilateral, to achieve compliance with all the fundamental labour standards,

   14.1 stresses in particular the close relationship between policies to support education and those to combat child labour, and recalls the absolute ban on work by children under the age of 15,
   14.2 considers that the development of fundamental social standards should be a clearly identified issue in initiatives to support democracy and human rights (stepping up the fight against the traffic in human beings, domestic slavery, exploitation of illegal immigrant workers and forced labour),
   14.3 stresses in particular the role which can be played by enhancing the right of workers to express their views, as well as their collective rights, in the establishment of democratic states,
   14.4 considers it necessary to make the human rights clause mandatory in all agreements the EU concludes with third countries, and proposes also to refer to both basic UN human rights covenants;
  14.5 calls on the EU to incorporate, in all agreements with third countries (commercial or cooperation agreements), a clause concerning respect for core labour standards,
   - to improve and multiply agreements along the lines of the Cotonou agreements, providing mechanisms for the monitoring and investigation of complaints,
   - insists that this commitment by the EU to core labour standards should be discussed systematically in all Joint Commissions or other appropriate bodies established in these agreements as well as in any political dialogue conducted with these countries,
   - stresses the contribution of non-governmental actors to this process; considers that the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation must give rise to specific measures in favour of the most vulnerable groups, such as women or disabled workers, and stresses the need to incorporate the notion of equality in these texts,
   14.6 Urges the European Union to support the promotion of fundamental labour standards in the world financial institutions (IMF, World Bank) particularly when introducing measures such as the Strategic Poverty Reduction Programme,
   14.7 Stresses, finally, that a stepping up of financial development aid is desirable to promote fundamental labour standards;
   14.8 Believes, finally, that this integrated approach should also include the external dimension of EU policy in the field of Justice and Home Affairs, and, specifically reinforced cooperation in the judicial and police field in action against trafficking in people;

15.  Stresses the essential and positive role of trade unions and employers" organisations in the promotion of core labour standards in the context of the ILO, and the importance of the role played by NGOs in improving social governance; calls on the Commission to clarify the question of the representativeness of NGOs, by setting up an accreditation and observation system similar to the one in existence for social partners;

16.  Looks to the Commission to step up its regional work with the new regulatory areas which are being established throughout the world(13) , in order to adapt the promotion of core labour standards better to local realities,

16.1  Stresses the importance of developing the economy of solidarity and the innovative role which women play therein, and calls on the European Union to encourage it to be taken into account, since this can provide new and original approaches to the implementation of fundamental labour standards,

16.2  Draws attention to the important role that women's organisations, development cooperation organisations and regional authorities have to play in implementing policy geared to sustainable development, social cohesion and thus respect for core labour standards,

16.3  Stresses the great importance in developing countries of the informal sector (parallel economy) and calls on the Commission and the ILO to come forward with proposals to enable the persons concerned to attain the status of workers,

16.4  Calls attention to the rapid growth of Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in different parts of the world and the fact that in many cases national labour legislation does not apply in these zones; calls therefore on the Commission to explore the possibilities of making ILO core labour standards applicable in such EPZs;

17.  Stresses that promoting corporate social responsibility must follow on from what is happening in the OECD and ILO context, and must be accompanied by the promotion of worldwide social labelling, making it possible to assess genuinely the production and distribution chains of products from developing countries, and calls on the EU to incorporate this labelling into the development of the GSP,

17.1  Stresses, in addition, the role and responsibility of transnational companies in ensuring equitable working conditions in line with the OECD guidelines issued in 1976 and revised in 2000, and with the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises issued in 1977 and revised in 2000,

17.2  Suggests that the Commission, in consultation with management and labour and the other organisations concerned, should draw up a single European code of conduct to govern the international operations of European industry, based on the most appropriate international agreements;

18.  Calls on the Council, the Commission and the Member States, in consultation with the social partners (workers and employers) to define a common position and strategy on fundamental social standards, particularly in the run-up to the new round of multilateral WTO negotiations and in the light of the progress needing to be made in that forum; recalls in that connection that the EU negotiating mandate adopted in the run-up to the third WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle is still legally valid;

19.  Calls on the Member States of the EU to extend their cooperation measures with third countries, taking account of the priorities linked to improving governance and the guidelines defined by the EU;

20.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 364, 18.12.2000, p. 1.
(2) OJ C 223, 8.8.2001, p. 74.
(3) International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Doc. A/6316 (19666), 993 UNTS 3, which entered into force on 3 January 1976, and International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, UN Doc. A/14668 (1966), 999 UNTS 171, which entered into force on 16 December 1966.
(4) OJ C 287, 12.10.2001, p. 1.
(5) OJ C 153 E, 27.6.2002, p. 314.
(6) OJ C 226, 20.7.1998, p. 64.
(7) OJ L 120, 8.5.1999, p. 1.
(8) OJ L 120, 8.5.1999, p. 8.
(9) OJ C 112 E, 9.5.2002, p. 326.
(10) OJ C 104, 14.4.1999, p. 180.
(11) OJ C 197, 12.7.2001, p. 180.
(12) Cf. report of the Commission"s working party no. 5 on governance, of May 2001: "Reinforcing Europe"s contribution to world governance".
(13) Mercosur, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the UAO (Western African Union), etc.

Last updated: 9 May 2004Legal notice