Revisiting the Preamble of the European Social Charter: Paper Tiger or Blessing in Disguise?

Nikos Papadopoulos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The European Social Charter has recently received increased attention due to the evolution of its monitoring mechanism and the need to address a multitude of contemporary challenges to socio-economic rights. Although the treaty’s preamble has played a crucial role in the interpretation of substantive provisions and in shaping state obligations, little attention has been paid to the way in which the preamble has defined the fundamental lines of the ‘jurisprudence’ of the Charter’s monitoring body. The European Committee of Social Rights has deduced from the Charter’s preamble several important general principles for the protection of socio-economic rights, on which it grounds its interpretation. This article analyses these principles and evaluates their effects in the relevant practice. The findings suggest that the Charter’s preamble serves different purposes and performs multiple functions in international law, thus challenging the common assumption that human rights treaty preambles are empty phrases of a merely ceremonial nature.
Original languageEnglish
Article number021
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Rights Law Review
Issue number1
Early online date2 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2022


  • European Committee of Social Rights
  • economic and social rights
  • effectiveness and progressive realisation
  • international monitoring
  • preamble
  • treaty interpretation

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