The Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights (MFHR) as a member of the Academic Network on the European Social Charter and Social Rights (ANESC) participated in the International Congress entitled: "Social Rights and Policies in Europe: Current challenges and possible solutions for a way out of the crisis" (Valencia, 21-23 October 2015) which was organized by the European Union (Life Long Learning Programme) and the University of Valencia.The MFHR was represented by its Research Fellow, Konstantinos Kazanas, Lawyer and Member of the Athens Bar Association.
Distinguished professors, stake holders and policy makers participated in the Congress such as Antonio Bar Cendón, Professor of Constitutional Law and Jean Monnet Professor "ad personam" at the University of Valencia, Luis Jimena Quesada, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Valencia and former President of the European Committee of Social Rights (2009-2014), Jean Michel Belorgey,Président de section en exercice à la Cour Nationale du Droit d’Asile, Montreuil, and former President of the European Committee of Social Rights (2003-2006), Luis Gordillo Perez,Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Deusto, Bilbao, Jan Niessen, former Director of the Migration Policy Group in Brussels, and Nick Ellison, Professor of Social Policy and Head of the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of York.
During the Congress sessions, the EU social policy was analyzed under the spectrum of the EU crisis. The UK and the German social model as well as the social models of the Eastern and Central European countries were explored by the speakers and the participants. Additionally, the protection of minorities, EU immigration policy, educational topics and gender equality issues in Europe were thoroughly presented by experts in the panels and workshops.
In the same context, the Court of Justice of theEuropean Union, the European Court of Human Rights, national Constitutional Courts and the European Committee of Social Rights were proposed as recourses for the safeguard of social rights in the era of crisis. Legal scholars presented an extended analysis of the case law of international and national judicial bodies on social rights protection and, ultimately, the European Social Charter was highlighted as a key instrumental guaranty thereof.
The MFHR representative, throughout the Congress workshops and open discussions, stated the Foundation’s longstanding and strong commitment to social rights. He underlined that social rights are human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in other major United Nations and regional human rights instruments. In particular, Mr Kazanas stressed that the Council of Europe and the European Union have a shared commitment to the protection of fundamental rights, including social rights, and the rule of law in Europe, even more so in the era of an economic, social and therefore institutional crisis.
Our Foundation highlights that some of the most drastic human rights consequences of the economic crisis and austerity have been in the field of social rights. Respectively, the deep economic recession and austerity measures have disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and marginalised groups of people leading to extreme poverty and threatening social cohesion. In this context, the international communityand especially the international and regional organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, should take the appropriate actions in order to ensure the effective and equal enjoyment of all social rights.
Instead of austerity measures and unjust economic policies, we call political leaders, national legislators, the European Parliament as well as national and regional courts to protect our human rights acquis and to implement a human rights based approach towards a fair and just economic growth coupled with social protection. In these crucial times, it is more than urgent to safeguard social rights for all and thus preserve democratic institutions.