In the founding treaties, the European Union stipulated a wide range of its tasks, including: attaining high employment and social protection, equality of women and men, raising the standard of living and quality of life, and achieving economic and social cohesion and solidarity among Member States. The EU commitment to achieving the said tasks was reiterated in 1994, when the European Commission defined the European Social Model as a number of shared values that “include democracy and individual rights, free collective bargaining, the market economy, equality of opportunity for all and social welfare and solidarity.”
Pursuant to Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Union supports and complements the activities of the Member States in the area of social policy. The acquis communautaire in the area of social affairs includes minimum standards in matters such as labour law, equal treatment of women and men in employment and social protection, as well as occupational health and safety. Certain binding rules prohibiting discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation have also been adopted (Article 19 of the TFEU).
The Preamble of the Single European Act of 1986 and the Treaty on European Union of 1993 formally introduced human rights protection as an obligation of the EU. In 2000, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU proclaimed the inviolability of human dignity and incorporated the general human, civil, economic and social rights.