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Constitutional Socio-Economic Rights: Lessons from Central Europe

Author: 
Wojciech Sadurski
Publication date: 
Thu, 4 Dec 2008

Whether socio-economic rights should be entrenched in constitutions has been a subject of lively debate. On the one hand, it has been argued that such an entrenchment is necessary in order to recognize the worth and standing of those rights and in order to give individual claimants sufficient remedies in cases of a breach of a right. On the other hand, it has been argued that it is unnecessary (because statutory recognition is sufficient) and even harmful because it invites judges to enter into the field of social policy where they have neither competence nor legitimacy to act.

Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) presents an attractive and recent illustration of the ‘problem’ of socio-economic constitutional rights. All CEE constitutions include reasonably ‘generous’ catalogues of such rights, with broadly stated rights to social security, to work, and to education in particular. With some exceptions (in particular, Czech Republic and Slovakia), the differences in legal status between socio-economic rights and liberty rights are either minimal (Poland) or nil (Hungary).