European Committee for Specialised Action for Children and Families in their living environment / INGO AT THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

Europe: an appeal for the defense of social work values? [1] 
by Philippe Lecorne member of EUROCEF Bureau

Through this text Philippe Lecorne invites social workers to understand what is at stake at the European level and impacting and will impact more educational activities of our services, inviting us to exercise our vigilance and our reactions to a essentially economic and liberal vision of European integration. He shows us how it is still possible to influence through various European decision-making choices that affect our practices and values ​​that we intend to defend.

At first glance, Europe, as is presented to us, seems very few take into account the concerns of social workers. The pervasiveness of the economic dimension of European integration also makes virtually inaudible and invisible otherwise address the fate increasingly common for all European citizens. This probably explains the growing interest shown towards Europe. And when at last are media-mentioned issues of poverty in Europe, it is often in terms of lower average devoted to it, or questioning of aid granted to date [2].

Europe therefore appears more social workers as a source of concern rather than a source of inspiration, rather than an additional obstacle can leverage for action in favor of the most disadvantaged populations.This impression is further reinforced by the argument often invoked during the emergence of new provisions in our national law, ie they result from constraints imposed by EU law, while failing to provide the analysis of their relevance to our values.

Clearly, these provisions, even though they all involve a questioning of how to design the organization and implementation of social services, have a different impact depending on their purpose and principles that inspire: there can put on the same plane, for example, certain provisions relating to the financing of social services designed to assimilate them to market services in a concept inherent to economic liberalism, and others inspired by a desire to promote and develop human rights provisions citizens, such as the right of access to their records for the users of social services or the right of the child to be legally represented or see collect his opinion in the decisions that affect them. Not only they are not of the same nature, but they are derived from decision-making bodies that are different, as are the mechanisms of their development and adoption. Better understanding of the specificity of the various European institutions is a prerequisite for understanding the value systems on which to base the adoption of European legislation and the ways in which they impact our national legislation.

It is from this light that will be able to understand the link between European doctrines and values ​​inherent in social work and, subsequently, how the citizens in general and social workers in particular, can interact on this link. It is thus possible that, if the remedies of citizens against EU rules themselves are very limited, yet he appears opportunities for social workers to rely on European doctrines to defend the values ​​to which they refer.


It is important to first understand how the European dimension is incorporated. The coexistence of two European organizations, each having developed specific institutions, is the source of many misunderstandings and confusions caused multiple, sometimes even among the most informed public [3].

Both organizations have their own history, but above all they are based on different foundations, which affects the way they approach societal issues.

The Council of Europe is the oldest organization. Promote European common democratic and legal principles based on the European Convention CoE aims of Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of the individual. Founded in 1949 by 10 countries, the same year joined by Greece and Turkey, the CoE today 47 countries covering virtually the entire continent of Europe. He was born of an intergovernmental will is to say that its decisions are not binding on States, adopting the latter by means of accession.

The foundation of  the European Union  is notoriously different, since its first construction allows for the sake of economic rapprochement between some European countries. It was in 1952 that around six countries, is the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community), the forerunner of the European Economic Community (also known as the Common Market) was created in 1957. Gradually, through various stages of other countries will join to form today a Union of 27 countries. From its inception this organization is marked also by its essentially economic basis, for the sake of federalism, that is to say by a supranational logic of member countries, each of which requires its legislation to comply with the EU legislation. The EEC became the European Union since the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993, this trend reflecting the desire to go beyond the purely economic objective to target political integration. However, even today, the beginnings of the political dimension reflect the significance of the economic dimension of the Functioning of the European Union.

On the issue of social cohesion and exclusion, the approach of the two bodies is different. For the European Union, the issue of employment, full employment, business and economic conditions are the elements essential input. For the Council of Europe, it is considered that the situation of the person does not result as a consequence of a failure of the individual but the consequence of a system that is no longer able to respond to the situation.

This shows that the concept of employment is crucial for the European Union. For the Council of Europe, this is far from enough, social cohesion integrating all matters relating to the life of individuals and groups, which goes far beyond the economic dimension.

If both organizations have the same purpose and emphasize the need for integrated social policies with other policies, the European Union emphasizes the need for economic competitiveness to reduce exclusion and poverty while the Council Europe square in the center of its activities for human dignity and emphasizes respect for human rights. We can say that the Council of Europe goes beyond the European Union and its approach is probably more in tune with the concerns of social workers.


This distinction made between the two European organizations and their original foundations should avoid temptation too simplistic and take into account changes in doctrine and issues that affect them.

Since the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993, the European Union expressed its willingness to go beyond its essentially economic objective. This is particularly reflected in the adoption of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union Charter adopted at the Nice Treaty in 2000, and with the same binding legal force as treaties with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

In this charter, the EU clearly adopts topical hitherto exclusively handled by the CoE. The charter aims to contain the general principles of the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950 and those resulting from the common constitutional traditions of the EU countries. In addition, the charter includes the fundamental rights to citizens of the European Union, including economic and social rights as contained in the Social Charter of the Council of Europe.

We can therefore consider that the EU has taken a step, still shy of course, to the consideration and promotion of human rights, even if the dominant concern and value system remains economic.

At the Council of Europe, the enthusiasm for a system of values ​​referred mainly to human rights and democracy must be tempered somewhat by the fact that common values ​​are not necessarily identical expressions of these values . Each country has its history, its culture, its exercise of democracy mode, its political and social organization that makes Europe a mosaic where often expressed very differently democratic and humanistic ideal that carries the European institution. Include, among others, two thematic and tensioned within Europe:

  • the European paradigm of institutionalization and interferes acting differently on the social policies of states. Thus, if it can, wisely, to fight large asylums structures still exist in some countries in Eastern Europe, a concern for the largest possible integration of vulnerable people in their ordinary living environment has the effect of justifying the stagnation or decline in the number of host sites without specialized resources are really taken to promote integration (cf. France, the issue of school integration of children with disabilities).
  • The unifying reference of the child is struggling to hide the large gap between the Latin and Anglo-Saxon designs on the question of the respective places of the child and his family, as well as Joel interest analysis HENRY [4]. If Latin develop protectionist conception the child, while being free and subject of law is primarily a be protected, particularly in the parental context, the Anglo-Saxons see in a child be able to autonomy from adults, liberationist thesis, which will consider up to parents and children as mere partners to deal on an equal footing.

Clearly, based on common values, Europe is a field of debate, even fight, the determination of the resulting principles and how they are to shine in national policies . As such, beyond a European news monopolized by the economic dimension of problems, European citizens are social workers can not remain indifferent on how to decline the defense and promotion of human rights and human dignity. The question then is how these people can participate in the development and implementation of European guidelines dictated by social policies, how they can also rely on the European doctrine to influence national policy developments, when these undermine the values ​​they are attached.


User participation notes of democratic ideals and principles arising .

In Western European countries, two very different trends, even contradictory appeared in recent years. On the one hand, citizen participation in representative democracy, as expressed in local, national and European elections, is – with few exceptions – down to the point that some countries are considering making the compulsory voting (this is already the case in Belgium).

On the other hand, the demand of citizens to be more involved in decisions concerning increases.Consideration of this application is illustrated in particular by the advent of what is called “the right of users” The  requirement of direct democracy and takes over representative democracy . The contrast is probably not as obvious, for reasons that can be understood in the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe.

Beyond representative democracy with the election of members of the European Union is the most concrete manifestation, what mechanisms promote expression of participatory democracy in the European organizations? We will quickly review all possible remedies before presenting more detail than that, so far, seems to be more accessible to address issues relating to the right of the people involved in social work, the latter professional or users.

From the EU side, we can mention three:

  • referral to the European Ombudsman 
    Any citizen of the Union and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State has the right to complain to the European Ombudsman (Ombudsman) in cases of maladministration in the activities of institutions and bodies of the Union, with the exception of the Court of Justice of the European Union acting in its judicial role. Note that the scope of the referral appears to be relatively limited because it only concerns the relationship of European citizens with the administration of the Union. : The list of cases dealt with on the site can be found  fr /
  • referral to the European Court of Justice 
    The Court of Justice interprets EU law to ensure uniform application of the law in all EU countries. It also rules on disputes between the governments of the Member States and EU institutions. Individuals, companies or organizations may also ask the Court of Justice if it considers that an EU institution or its staff did not respect their rights. For more details, one may refer to:
  • European Citizens’ Initiative 
    Introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Citizens’ Initiative  (ECI) is a new form of participation in the policy of the European Union. 
    European Citizens’ Initiative allows a minimum of one million citizens from at least one quarter of Member States of the EU to invite the European Commission to bring forward proposals for legal acts in areas under its jurisdiction. The organizers of a citizens ‘initiative should form a citizens’ committee composed of at least seven EU citizens resident in at least seven different Member States. They have one year to collect the necessary statements of support. The number of statements of support must be certified by the competent authorities in the Member States. The Commission then has three months to examine the initiative and decide on the action to be taken. 
    According to the Regulation, the first European Citizens’ Initiatives have been actually launched from 1st  April 2012 . The deadline for collecting signatures is ongoing for the fortnight known initiatives to date. We found listed on the site:

Side of the Council of Europe, the European citizen has access to two remedies:

  • referral to the European Court of Human Rights 
    The European Court of Human Rights (also called ECHR and the Strasbourg Court, as opposed to the Court of Justice of the European Union based in Luxembourg ) is a body supranational courts established by the European Convention on Human Rights. Its mission is to ensure compliance with the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (official name, often called the European Convention on Human Rights). The European Court of Human Rights has jurisdiction when a member of the Council of Europe, which has ratified the Convention and its Protocols (State Party) government does not respect the rights and freedoms recognized therein. 
    Article 35 of the European Convention on Human Rights establishes a prerequisite for referral to the European Court of Human Rights, the exhaustion of domestic remedies . This condition is the result of the subsidiary competence of supranational jurisdiction, conceived as a body monitoring the implementation of the Convention. The courts of the signatory States are responsible for implementing the Convention and to eliminate violations of human rights. To enter the Court, the applicant must prove the inability of national courts to remedy the shortcomings in exercising remedies, effective and adequate, and invoking a substance in violation of the Convention. 
    This prerequisite is satisfied, an individual application European Court of Human Rights (Article 34) is possible for anyone who considers himself a victim of a violation by one of the Contracting Parties of the rights recognized in the Convention (European Convention on Human Rights, man) 
    The European Court of Human Rights is facing difficulties in carrying out its tasks, because of the significant growth of individual applications and those pending. In 2010 a total of 63,000 applications were received. The previous year it was 55,000. August 31, 2011, some 160 200 cases were pending before the Court. To address these problems, a reform is considered by the Director of Human Rights (CDDH) to limit the number of queries and more effective treatment. But there is a danger that all this can lead to a significant restriction of the right of individual petition – the cornerstone of the mechanism of the European Convention on Human Rights – and the indispensable role of the European Court of Human Rights and jurisprudence in the democratic space européenOn find additional information at:
  • the collective complaints procedure 
    The presentation of this procedure requires a detour through the institutional organization of the Council of Europe based on four pillars:

    • The Committee of Ministers is composed of the 47 Foreign Ministers or their representatives (ambassadors) Strasbourg.. This is the decision making body of the organization. It decides on the activities and work program of the Council of Europe. It adopts the annual budget. It meets annually at ministerial level and several times a month at ambassadorial level. At each session, the Presidency is entrusted for six months to a Member State, in turn (in alphabetical order).
    • The Parliamentary Assembly  : it is a deliberative assembly representing the parliaments of the Member States. It includes 318 full members (and 318 substitutes) from the 47 national parliaments plus 18 delegations from observer states (can speak but do not have the right to vote).
    • The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
      Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe is a pan-European political assembly composed of 636 elected – regional and municipal councilors, mayors and regional presidents – representing over 200,000 authorities from 47 European countries .
    •  The Conference of NGOs
      voice of civil society is heard at the Council of Europe through the Conference of International Non-governmental organizations (INGOs). 
      Since he established consultative status for INGOs in 1952, the Council Europe has developed relationships increasingly close and fruitful with NGOs, representatives of civil society. Creating participatory status in 2003 has strengthened the involvement of INGOs policy and program of work of the Council, as well as cooperation between the Council and the associative sphere in the Member States. 
      Over 400 INGOs with participatory status. They are since 2005 the Conference of INGOs, which represents civil society in the “quadrilogue” Council of Europe, together with the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.Through this status, the Council of Europe includes INGOs in intergovernmental activities and encourages members of parliaments and local and regional dialogue with associations about the challenges facing society communities. The Conference of INGOs is now recognized as an institution of the Council of Europe. 
      INGOs enjoying participatory status may, subject to compliance with certain conditions of representativeness, ask to be included on the list of organizations entitled to lodge collective complaints . The enabled INGOs are currently near 80. These include the European Committee for specialized child and family in their living environment (EUROCEF) European INGOs founded in 1988 on the initiative of CNAEMO, with the objective to develop, at European level, work share and exchange of educational and social action towards the child and family, and act with the European authorities for the recognition of the need and conditions of exercise.


As we noted above, the European Convention on Human Rights is the founding document of the Council of Europe. It guarantees civil and political rights of citizens. The European Social Charter , which guarantees social and economic rights is the natural complement. Adopted in 1961, it was revised in 1996. The European Social Charter (hereinafter “the Charter”) sets out rights and freedoms and establishes a supervisory mechanism guaranteeing their respect by the States parties. 
This is the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) whose mission to judge the conformity of national law and practice of States Parties to the European Social Charter. 
To do this, national reports are required to be submitted by States parties on how they apply their commitments. 
Another control system compliance with the Charter states is constituted by the collective complaints procedure. The 1995 Additional Protocol establishing a system of collective complaints came into force on 1 July 1998. It allows, in relation to States which have accepted this procedure, enter the European Committee of Social Rights complaints of violations of the Charter. This referral may be made ​​by:

  • The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE)
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the Council of Europe and included in a list established for this purpose by the Governmental Committee
  • Employers’ organizations and trade unions of the State concerned

The complaint is reviewed by the Committee, if the formal requirements are met, declares it admissible. 
Once the complaint has been declared admissible, a written procedure is set with exchange of documents between the parties. Optionally, the Committee may decide to hold a public hearing.

The Committee then takes a decision on the merits of the claim. It forwards to the parties and the Committee of Ministers in a report, which will be made public no later than four months after its transmission.

Finally, the Committee of Ministers adopts a resolution. Where appropriate, it may recommend to the State to take specific measures to bring the situation into conformity with the Charter. The power of the Council of Europe lies in the impact of advertising decisions and pressure vis-à-vis the State Party to put its legislation into conformity with its practices and commitments.

To date, 14 members of the Council of Europe are bound by the Protocol. Over the period 1998-2011, the European Committee of Social Rights has received 75 collective complaints. Some concern France. The ECSR has been particularly concerned for violation of certain sections of the Charter because:

  • Its insufficient progress in support of the education of people with autism
  • Restrictions on the right of access to medical assistance to foreign nationals in an irregular situation
  • The inadequacy of housing policy for the poor people
  • Its policy towards Roma (expulsion and discrimination procedure)


In April 2012, EUROCEF filed a collective complaint against France for violation of the European Social Charter. This complaint concerns the situation of families affected by the suspension of allowances in case of truancy of their children, the measure applied by France by the law n ° 2010-1127 of 28 September 2010 to fight against truancy ( Official Journal No. 0226 of 29 September 2010 Page 17553 Text No. 1) and the Law N ° 2011-267 of 14 March 2011 relating to the parental responsibility contract .

EUROCEF considers that the suspension of allowances affect the right of the family to social and economic protection (Article 16 of the Charter) and the right to protection of everyone against poverty and social exclusion (Article 30 ), as it contravenes its implementing rules, the principle of non-discrimination set out in Article I of the Charter.

EUROCEF is currently awaiting the decision of the European Committee of Social Rights, which must decide after the reply filed by the French Government dated 30 July 2012 and the response thereto was made by EUROCEF in October 24, 2012.

This approach has she been helpful? We do not know the fate that will be reserved when the National Assembly has adopted definitively this Jan. 17, 2013, legislation to repeal the suspension of family allowance in cases of truancy. In all cases, we welcome initiatives that conjunction of all those who fought against this unjust and ineffective. The European Committee of Social Rights will he an opinion on the issue, although it has been determined nationally? We want without daring to say. It will be open to everyone to follow the fate of the claim on the website of the Council of Europe, in the “European Social Charter.”

We conclude with the hope that these few lines have allowed social workers to better understand what is at stake at the European level, both to exercise vigilance with respect to an essentially economic and liberal vision of European integration, but also for contribute to the defense of human rights and the development of policies and practices that may contribute.

[1] This article appeared in the March 2013 issue of the journal Social Space, is reproduced here with the kind permission of the National Crossroads of Educational Action Open Environment (CNAEMO), a French NGO that disseminates this review: www .
[2] Thus it is with food redistribution program surpluses of the common agricultural policy, food program whose beneficiaries through various charities, over 13 million Europeans among the poorest . This assistance program is now being challenged by some states who believe that social policies are states and not the EU. Constantly suspended since 2011, this program will disappear by 2013 if no agreement is reached to maintain it.
[3] This is the case sometimes some journalists, making it even more difficult to understand EU policies .
[4]  From offices in Europe, the French system at risk, Pathways Edition 2006