The revised European Social Charter (ESC) is the European reference instrument for safeguarding economic, social and cultural rights. Together with Monaco, San Marino and Liechtenstein, Switzerland is one of four of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe not to have ratified the ESC. To accede to the ESC Switzerland is not required to accept all its provisions. According to a system of “à la carte" ratification – a system that distinguishes the ESC from other international instruments on the protection of human rights – a state can choose to limit itself to accepting in full a minimum of six of the nine articles that make up the core of the ESC.
Analysis of the practice of the European Committee of Social Rights – the body responsible for monitoring compliance with the ESC – and the discussions that have been conducted with it, have led the Federal Council to conclude that from a legal perspective Switzerland could today accept the following six core articles: article 1 ("the right to work"), article 5 ("the right to organise"), article 6 ("the right to bargain collectively"), article 7 (the right of children and young persons to protection"), article 16 ("the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection") and article 20 ("the right to equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation without discrimination on the grounds of sex"). Switzerland's legal order would be in conformity with these provisions without the need for amendments to its legislation. Given the possibility of "à la carte" ratification, Switzerland's accession to the ESC would not involve the obligation to extend either the social legislation or related obligations concerning the management of immigration.
Following this legal analysis, the Federal Council will comment on the principle of ratifying the charter at the next stage, when Parliament takes note of the report.
The report follows the postulate tabled by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Council of States on 12 January 2010. The Federal Council recommended accepting the postulate on 24 February 2010. The Council of States adopted the postulate on 8 March 2010.
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