European Union has adopted an aggressive position relative to the area of employment law. Although the primary goal of the Union is to promote the economic relationship between member states, there is a social dimension to the Union activities that demands that it involve itself in collateral matters that might impact on this goal (Sparrow, 2009). Employment law is one of those collateral matters and the goal is to maintain a high level of employment throughout the Union and to improve the living conditions of all workers. The hope of the Union was that the working conditions of the workers would be enhanced in the process (Kenner, 2002).
The approach taken by the Union was to adopt legislation that would be enforceable throughout its member states. This legislation would establish minimum standards governing working and employment conditions. As one of the basic social rights of the European Union was to recognize freedom of movement of labor, it was essential that some measure of uniformity be established in the area of employment law. This system would allow every Union national the opportunity to take up and pursue employment in any territory within the Union and enjoy the same rights and privileges that he enjoyed in his native state. This process required that every individual member state would be expected to incorporate these standards into their respective national laws with the result being that a uniform system of employment law would be established throughout the European Union.
Providing the legislation necessary to set the standards is only the first step. Enforcing the standards is also required. This responsibility falls upon the Courts in the various member states. Beyond enforcement in the member state courts, the European Court of Justice also plays an integral role in arbitrating conflicts and providing legal guidance to those seeking its advice. Those first seeking relief regarding employment issues in their respective national courts would still have the option of seeking relief through the European Court of Justice. This process allows individual workers the right to claim employment rights that their member state may have failed to incorporate into their domestic law or which their domestic court may have improperly applied. The fact that all individuals have access to the European Union courts has caused all domestic courts to interpret their national laws in light of the directives issued by the Union Courts.
As indicated, the goal of the European Union has been to improve the overall working conditions of all workers throughout the continent and to do so throughout all its member states. Toward this end the Union believed that establishing uniformity throughout the Union was necessary in order to ensure this occurring. The Union cannot succeed if workers in one member state are treated remarkably different than they are in any other state (European Commission, 2011). The success of the Union is dependent on the symbiotic relationship between the various members and all members working toward a common goal of strengthening Europe as an international trading power.
The effect of this reality has caused a major shift in employment law in Europe. Outside the United Kingdom where laws have developed primarily through common law, most other European legal systems were based on application of codified law. With the increased involvement of the European Court of Justice case law development has become more important and less reliance is being placed on codified law and a system more similar to that used in the United Kingdom is being used. Conflicts between the laws of member nations require flexibility and strict adherence to codes does not always afford the required level of flexibility. The Union member states that have been reliant on codified laws are just now adjusting to the greater reliance on case law and this has caused some confusion in the application of the decisions rendered by Union Courts.
2. The European Union has established a strong position in all matters related to discrimination in any form among its member states (Meenan, 2007). This position flows directly from Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty and prevents all individuals in the European Union from being discriminated against on grounds of race and ethnic origin and, further, on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The goal of the discrimination standards set forth in the Amsterdam Treaty was to eliminate all discriminatory practice in the workplace throughout the European Union. When these standards were originally pronounced the European Union had fewer members and enforcement was much easier. As the Union has expanded, enforcement has become more difficult and in recognition of these increased difficulties the Union has dedicated more of its resources toward the goal of eliminating discrimination in the workforce including declaring the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination the Union's primary goal in calendar year 2007.
Despite the high priority placed by the European Union on the elimination of discrimination and the creation of equality in the workplace, discrimination still exists (Besson, 2008). Such discrimination is to be expected where so many ethnic, racial, and religious groups are living side by side but the member states are determined to do whatever is necessary to achieve its goal of total equality in the workplace.
Improvements in the health and safety of European workers were a concern for the European Union from the very beginning. Article 140 of the EC Treaty contains language that encourages the member states to cooperate in an effort to prevent occupational accidents and diseases and to encourage occupational hygiene. Initially the member states were afforded considerable levity in regard to adopting their standards. Competition was often afforded more consideration than safety so that the Union had to step in and establish minimum safety and health standards for all its members. Currently, the all member states must establish health and safety standards that comply with the standards set by the European Union. Member states may adopt standards that are more stringent than the Union's but they cannot adopt standards below those established by the Union.
In establishing minimum standards of health and safety, the European Union has required that member states concern themselves with not only the health and safety of its workers but also anyone who visits the workplace (Jacobsen, 2006). The standards must fully assess the risks and implement controls that reduce the assessed risks. In addition to establishing minimum standards, the Union requires that an educational and training program be implemented that provides workers with the information necessary to ensures their health and safety. The Union also suggests that business initiate internal monitoring and surveillance of their working environments.
The European Union's concern with discrimination, equality and health and safety in the work place are all consistent with the Union's overall concern with human rights. The Union has concerned itself with improving the humanitarian and economic conditions of European workers since its earliest days and has attempted to do so while creating more jobs and better quality jobs as well. When the European Union first began developing the laws governing these issues often conflicted among its member states and the goal of the Union has been to coordinate as many of these laws and regulations as possible and create a new system that covers the maximum number of risks while utilizing the minimum number of laws and regulations. The process has taken time and considerable effort by the member states but the Union is gaining ground in attempting to build a unified system of laws that govern not only concerns over discrimination but also the health and safety of European workers.
3. The European Union has been on the forefront of data protection legislation leading the entire world in its attempts to protect the privacy of individuals living within European member states. In this regard, the European Union has declared that the protection of personal information date is a fundamental right of all individuals living in a member state.
In order to provide the maximum level of protection, the European Union has enacted legislation that requires that all its member states provide the same level of protection (Sullivan, 2006). Requiring uniform protection ensures that there will be no breakdown and information will be accidently released to any agency that is not entitled to it. As an additional protection, the European Union also requires that any non-European Union nation must maintain the same level of protection before releasing information to said requesting nation.
The data protection laws in the European Union are far more stringent that those being presently used in any other nation including the United States. This is not a new development in the European Union as the Union has been actively engaged in providing personal information protection for its individuals for several decades. Like similar Union legislative proposals the privacy protections were not widely adopted in the early years and this caused some members states to refuse to divulge information. This situation caused a breakdown in the free exchange of information which ran contrary to…