The aim of this paper is first, to give a brief overview of the EC Social Charter highlighting its achievements to date and second, to focus on the Community’s attempts to harmonize the divergent national rules governing professional standards and the recognition of diplomas with emphasis on the engineering sector.
The Social Charter seeks to establish a code of fundamental social rights to be enjoyed by Community workers. However, it is no more than a political declaration of principles and intent. It has no legislative effect nor does it extend the legislative powers of the Community Institutions. Indeed it was only signed by eleven out of twelve Member States. The United Kingdom, under Margaret Thatcher’s intransigent leadership, refused to approve a document which it saw as an attempt by European socialists such as Jacques Delors, the President of the Commission and Vasso Papandreou, the EC Social Affairs Commissioner to introduce socialism "by the back door" thus undermining the U.K.’s duly elected conservative government.
Although the mutual recognition of diplomas and professional experience was listed in the Social Charter as a fundamental social right, it is easily distinguished from many of the other, more politically controversial, rights. It will be seen below that the central idea behind the Social Charter is to protect workers from the cut-throat capitalism of the free market system by creating a safety net of workers’ rights. Its opponents see it as a socialist threat to the success of the EC "single market" programme which is due to be completed by 1992. The recognition of diplomas is, on the other hand, a central aspect of the EC rules governing the free movement of persons in the Community. The Treaty of Rome, which is the constitution of the European Community, obliges Member States to ensure that persons, including workers and professionals, can move freely and establish themselves without hindrance anywhere in the Community. This principle, along with the free movement of goods, services and capital, is a prerequisite to the success of the EC "single market". The idea is that without this freedom of movement throughout the Community the desired pan-European economies of scale cannot be achieved. For example, an engineering firm, based in one Member State but wishing to branch out and operate throughout the Community, would suffer a commercial handicap if its engineers, qualified in the original Member State were unable to offer their professional services or be relocated in other Member States.