Dáil Éireann - Volume 415 - 29 January, 1992

Written Answers. - EC Voting Procedures.

126. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reasons unanimous voting under the EC Social Charter (Article 118 of Maastricht Treaty) is retained for measures concerning the conditions of employment of third country nationals, but not of Community nationals.

[122] Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Collins): The Articles of the EC Treaty relating to social policy, Articles 117 to 122, have not been changed. However, an Agreement, linked to the Treaty through an Annex, was reached by eleven member states on provisions that go further than those in the Treaty. The United Kingdom is not a party to the Agreement, but it is party to the Protocol which authorises it.

Under this Agreement “working conditions” are included among items that are subject to qualified majority voting, rather than being subject to unanimity as in the Treaty. The separate question of the “conditions of employment for third country nationals legally residing in Community territory”, which was not provided for in the existing Treaty, is brought within the scope of the Agreement and is included, along with other matters relating to employment, such as social security and social protection of workers, among the items that require unanimity.

The Agreement between the eleven member states brings the matter of the conditions of employment of third country nationals within the scope of the activities of the institutions of the Community for the first time. For that reason it is appropriate that unanimity would apply at this stage. In this regard I should mention that other provisions of the new Treaty relating to conditions for third country nationals, such as immigration, are also subject to unanimity requirements.