Andrzej Marian Świątkowski
First vicepresident of the European Committee of Social Rights
The Council of Europe in Strasbourg
Jean Monnet Professor of European Labour and Social Security
Jagielonian University, Cracow
The freedom of movement of persons between member states within Europe is an asset that should not be undermined. The right to the freedom of movement within the countries belonging to the one international institution that is the Council of Europe should be an achievable goal in the nearest future. The Council of Europe is the oldest regional international organisation within Europe. Its fundamental aim is to protect human rights. The freedom of movement comes under this category. Analysing the international treaties passed by the Council of Europe as well as the judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights and those handed down by the European Committee of Social Rights it is important to note how crucial it is to introduce into the European Convention on Human Rights and into the European Social Charter and the Revised European Social Charter the right of citizens of countries belonging to the Council of Europe to be able to freely move within Europe. This right is currently a declaration, with limitations placed on “new” European Union member states. However the analysis of the above international treaties and decisions of bodies monitoring the
compliance of such regulations, deems that the international standards are indeed structured accordingly to the principles of the freedom of movement within Europe. The most vital regulations in place allowing for such principles to be followed through are Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 16 of both of the European Social Charters. Finally, the freedom of movement should really be discussed when this right is not only available to those who are capable of sustaining employment and are willing to work (and more importantly in the eyes of the authorities are willing to immigrate), therefore appearing to be useful. However the cited provisions of the international treaties drafted in order to protect human rights, set the international standards for Europe in such a way that the beneficiaries of such rights are immigrant families. The availability of such rights lies with the obligation of the authorities of member states to pay out family benefits on equal terms to its citizens as well as to immigrant families. The analysis of the judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights indicates the majority of economically developed European countries have a difficulty in accepting the terms of the right to the freedom of movement. The difference in the level of economic growth in Europe is therefore a fundamental obstacle in introducing such rights of the freedom of movement into the European Convention on Human Rights and into both of the European Social Charters. The same judgments however show that in the cases of persons changing their place of residency within different member states, the authorities of such states actively pursue equal treatment of its own citizens as well as foreigners in terms of social security rights determining the availability of the right to the freedom of movement.