Following Ireland’s first referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, an agreement was reached between the Heads of State or Government of the EU Member States on 19 June 2009 in Brussels consisting of legally binding agreements and political commitments, informally called ‘the Guarantees’. The Guarantees comprise three separate elements, one of which was a Solemn Declaration on Workers’ Rights, Social Policy and other related issues.
The Solemn Declaration was set out in an annex to the European Council conclusions of June 2009. In it, the European Council confirmed the high importance which the Union attaches to social progress and the protection of workers’ rights; public services; the responsibility of Member States for the delivery of education and health services, and the essential role and wide discretion of national, regional and local authorities in providing, commissioning and organising services of general economic interest. The European Council also underlined the importance of respecting the overall framework and provisions of the EU Treaties. Although not specific to any particular trade agreement, in this regard the Solemn Declaration went on to recall that the Treaties, as modified by the Treaty of Lisbon, provide that the Council, when acting in the area of common commercial policy, must act unanimously when negotiating and concluding international agreements in the field of trade in social, education and health services, where those agreements risk seriously disturbing the national organisation of such services and prejudicing the responsibility of Member States to deliver them.