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ICL Journal

Vienna Journal on International Constitutional Law

Editor-in-Chief: Bezemek, Christoph / Eberhard, Harald / Fuchs, Claudia

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Volume 11, Issue 4


Social Rights Protection in Europe in Times of Crisis: ‘A Tale of Two Cities’

Antonia Baraggia
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of National and Supranational Public Law, Constitutional Law, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
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/ Maria Elena Gennusa
Published Online: 2017-12-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icl-2017-0071


Europe can be considered a sort of fortress of the protection of socio-economic rights. However, this bright scenario has been unsettled by the eruption of the Eurozone crisis, which has challenged the narrative of social Europe and swept away protections for social rights in Member States grappling with sovereign debt crises such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Latvia and Romania. In these countries, austerity measures led to persistent violations of social rights, under the external constraint of conditionality regimes which involved cuts in wages, pensions and welfare services. Consequently, austerity measures were challenged in domestic and European Courts and before the ECSR. In other words, there has been a ‘turn to the law’, in order to give concrete effect to the potential offered by the relevant legal instruments. What has been the general attitude of the Courts and quasi-judicial bodies to actions challenging austerity measures? Since the analysis of how the Courts and other human rights bodies manage the complex and controversial balance between austerity and social rights is an excellent ‘stress test’ to determine the ‘weight’ of the latter not only in the political debate, but also in the human rights discourse, this paper will focus on the ‘crisis cases’ in Europe, so as to shed light on the actual level of protection for social rights.

Keywords: social rights; austerity; Courts; Committees

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Published Online: 2017-12-05

Published in Print: 2017-12-20

Citation Information: ICL Journal, Volume 11, Issue 4, Pages 479–506, ISSN (Online) 1995-5855, ISSN (Print) 2306-3734, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icl-2017-0071.

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© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

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