CM(2003)86 Addendum 15 July 2003
851 Meeting, 10 September 2003
6 Social cohesion
6.1 European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS)
a. Abridged report of the 10th meeting (Strasbourg, 20-22 May 2003)
b. Draft Recommendation Rec(2003)… of the Committee of Ministers to member states on improving access to social rights
1. This explanatory memorandum was drawn up with the aim of (1) setting out the background to the Recommendation on improving access to social rights and (2) clarifying the meaning of the principle of non-discrimination, which must underpin the policies promoting access to social rights that member states are invited to implement.
2. One of the fundamental pillars of the Strategy for Social Cohesion of the Council of Europe, approved by the Committee of Ministers in 2001, is the promotion of effective access to social rights for all, with due regard for the need to pay particular attention to persons who, because they are in a vulnerable situation, face difficulties in asserting these rights.
3. The desire to tackle the question of access to social rights from a multidisciplinary angle was reflected in the appointment of the Group of specialists on access to social protection (CS-PS), the Group of specialists on access to housing (CS-LO) and the Committee of Experts on Access to Employment (CS-EM). These groups of experts worked between 1999 and 2001 under the aegis of the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS). They drew up the Guidelines on the improvement of access to social protection, Guidelines on access to housing for vulnerable people and Guidelines on local partners for the development of employment. These guidelines, along with the Committee of Ministers' Recommendation Rec (2001) 12 to member states on the adaptation of health care services to the demand for health care and health care services of people in marginal situations and other work carried out at the Council of Europe in the field of education, were the basis for the Report on Access to Social Rights in Europe. The report was written by Professor Mary Daly (Queen's University, Belfast) with the assistance of an editorial group composed of governmental experts, representatives from non-governmental organisations and researchers in the social field.
4. The European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) adopted the Report on Access to Social Rights at its 8th meeting (Strasbourg, 28-30 May 2002). Aware of the importance of the conclusions and recommendations in the report, it decided to invite experts from the member states of the Council of Europe and from a number of non-member states to meet at a Conference to elaborate on the policy approaches proposed in the report. At the invitation of Maltese authorities, the Conference on Access to Social Rights took place in St Julian's (Malta) on 14 and 15 November 2002.
5. The Conference on Access to Social Rights brought together more than three hundred representatives from the member states of the Council of Europe, the observer states and other non-member states, international organisations, members of parliament, representatives of workers and employers, non-governmental organisations and research centres.
6. In its Final Declaration (the Malta Declaration), the Conference called on governments and other political, social and business partners to devise and implement policies promoting access to social rights. The Conference also invited the Committee of Ministers to instruct the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) to prepare a draft recommendation on access to social rights and to pay due attention to the conclusions of the Conference in its future work.
7. The Ministers' Deputies took note of the Malta Declaration at their 825th Meeting (Strasbourg, 22 January 2003). In accordance with the Declaration, they decided to give their full support to the continuation of the Council of Europe's work to promote effective access to social rights and entrusted the CDCS with preparing a draft recommendation on improving access to social rights.
8. The CDCS adopted the draft Recommendation on improving access to social rights at its 10th meeting (Strasbourg, 20-22 May 2003).
Principle of non-discrimination
9. The Recommendation on improving access to social rights calls on the governments of member states to implement policies promoting access to social rights based, in particular, on the principle of non-discrimination.
10. This principle, which is the subject of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, must be interpreted in the broadest sense. It should be noted that the list of grounds on which discrimination is prohibited under Article 14 is by no means exhaustive and that the European Court of Human Rights has already applied Article 14 in respect of grounds for discrimination not mentioned in this provision.
11. As specified in the Explanatory Report to Protocol N°12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, it was considered preferable to replicate, in Article 1 of the Protocol, the list of grounds for discrimination set out in Article 14 of the Convention. It was decided not to include certain supplementary grounds, such as physical or mental disability, sexual orientation and age. This decision did not stem from a lack of awareness that these grounds had become more important in society than they had been when Article 14 of the Convention was originally drawn up; but was taken because it was considered unnecessary, from a legal point of view, to include additional grounds as the list of grounds for discrimination was not exhaustive and the inclusion of a particular additional ground might lead to undesirable interpretations in respect of discrimination on grounds which had not been mentioned.