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COVID-19 affects us all. It does not care who we are, or where we are: everyone is at risk. As long as COVID-19 exists somewhere in the world, no one is safe. All over the world people are losing sources of income and finding them unable to provide for themselves and their families. The pandemic is especially worrying for partner countries outside the EU with fragile healthcare systems and economies. The European Union and its Member States, acting together as ‘Team Europe’, are taking comprehensive and decisive action to tackle the destructive impact of COVID-19.
How the Horizontal Social Clause can be made to Work: The Lessons of Gender Mainstreaming
The new article 9 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) requires the EU institutions and the Member States to assess all their policies, laws and activities in light of their implications for the achievement of social goals. In combination with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the future accession of the EU to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, it may contribute to a fundamental reorientation of EU legislation and jurisprudence towards social aims. The implementation of gender mainstreaming over the last ten years enables identification of the key factors required if horizontal European policies are to succeed. The experience of gender mainstreaming shows in particular that, in order to develop its full potential, the new Horizontal Social Clause will require a firm commitment on the part of all European actors involved in the fields of employment, social protection, the fight against social exclusion, education and training and human health. Subject to impetus by a strong political will, Article 9 has the potential to prompt significant redirection of the most liberal European policies towards social ends and to contribute to the emergence of a European social model.
The precise status of the European Union in international law has never really been settled, and this applies to its predecessors (the European Economic Community (EEC) and European Community (EC) in particular) as well. What is clear, it seems, is that the Union is not a state as commonly conceived. It lacks its own territory and it lacks a population it can call its own, therewith failing to tick the two formal boxes when it comes to statehood.1 Moreover, the European Union is not generally recognized as a state, even though its attitudes and legal order sometimes suggest that statehood might be a close and reasonably accurate analogy. But if the European Union is not a state, then what is it? The most common classification is that it is an international organization, yet this is often accompanied by the caveat that it is an organization unlike any other. Traditionally, this has been captured in a variety of ways. Thus, for some, the European Union is the archetype of a supranational organization. It is held to be a species of the genus “international organization,” but one where decision making is more centralized than in others and actually takes place not so much between the member states but above them. This claim is then often accompanied by the statement that there is really only one example of such a supranational organization: the European Union.
Abstention, constructive (positive abstention)
As a general rule, all decisions taken with respect to the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy are adopted unanimously. However, in certain cases, an EU country can choose to abstain from voting on a particular action without blocking it. This could arise, for example, where the EU proposes to condemn the actions of a non-EU country. Under Article 31 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the country that constructively abstains may qualify its abstention by making a formal declaration.
In that case, it shall not be obliged to apply this decision, but shall accept that the decision commits the EU.
Accession criteria (Copenhagen criteria)
The Treaty on European Union sets out the conditions (Article 49) and principles (Article 6(1)) to which any country wishing to become an EU member must conform. Certain criteria must be met for admission. These criteria (known as the Copenhagen criteria) were established by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and strengthened by the Madrid European Council in 1995. They are: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities; a functioning market economy and the ability to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the EU; ability to take on the obligations of membership, including the capacity to effectively implement the rules, standards and policies that make up the body of EU law (the ‘acquis’), and adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. For EU accession negotiations to be launched, a country must satisfy the first criterion.