An Empty Shell? The Protection of Social Rights of Third-Country Workers in the eu after the Single Permit Directive

In: European Journal of Migration and Law

This article critically assesses the effectiveness of third-country nationals’ social rights protection in the eu following the adoption of Directive 2011/98/eu (‘the Single Permit Directive’). This instrument establishes a single permit for work and residence and sets up a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State. This article argues that despite being an important instrument allowing for a better protection of social rights of third-country nationals, the directive still reveals significant inconsistencies. First, due to difficult negotiations at the Council, the final text of the directive maintains the fragmented approach to legal immigration, excluding several categories of third-country nationals from its personal scope. Second, it also allows Member States the opportunity to impose important restrictions on social rights while implementing the directive. Finally, these restrictions can have considerable implications for the integration of immigrants in the host Member State. Accordingly, the argument is advanced that in reality the protection of third-country workers’ social rights in the eu still largely depends on the Member States’ political will.

  • 10

    European Commission (2014), Report on the implementation of the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility 2012–2013, (Communication) com(2014) 96 final; See also S. Carrera (2007), The eu Border Management Strategy, Centre for European Policy Studies Working paper No. 261/March, Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies.

  • 13

    European Council (1999), Tampere Summit conclusions, available online at

  • 16

    European Commission (2007), Proposal for a Council Directive on a single application procedure for a single permit for Non-eu Member Country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State and on a common set of rights for Non-eu Member Country workers legally residing in a Member State, com(2007) 638 final.

  • 18

    See S. Carrera (2007), Building a Common Policy on Labour Immigration. Towards a Comprehensive and Global Approach in the eu?, ceps working document 256, available online at (for a general overview of the topic).

  • 20

    European Commission, supra note 16 at explanatory memorandum, section 1.

  • 25

    European Commission (2010), Europe 2020. A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, (Communication), com(2010) 2020 final; European Commission (2014), Taking stock of the Europe 2020. A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, (Communication), com(2014) 130 final.

  • 26

    See generally K. Groenendijk (2005), ‘Access of third-country nationals to employment under the new ec migration law’, in: F. Julien-Laferrière, H. Labayle and O. Edstrom (eds), La politique européenne d’immigration et d’asile: bilan critique cinq ans après le Traité d’Amsterdam, Brussels: Bruylant, p. 141; Guild and Staples (2003), supra note 5, at 171ff.

  • 28

    Article 11, Directive 2003/109, supra note 27; Articles 12–17, Directive 2009/50, supra note 27.

  • 39

    European Commission, supra note 16 at recital 9.

  • 45

    M. Ruhs (2013), The Price of Rights. Regulating International Labour Migration, Oxford: Oxford University Press, at p. 49.

  • 47

    Bridget Anderson (2013), Us & Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Control, Oxford: Oxford University Press, at p. 3.

  • 49

    See Ruhs and Anderson, supra note 2, at p. 41 (discussing the implications of staff shortage in immigration policy).

  • 68

    Article 3(5) Regulation 883/2004, supra note 67.

  • 72

    Article 1, Regulation 859/2003, supra note 71.

  • 73

    See generally M. Klatt and M. Meister (2012), The Constitutional Structure of Proportionality, Oxford: Oxford University Press; A. Legg (2012), The Margin of Appreciation in International Human Rights Law: Deference and Proportionality, Oxford: Oxford University Press; K. Möller, Proportionality and Rights Inflation, lse Law, Society and Economy Working Papers 17/2013, available online at

  • 78

    See J.-F. Flauss (2004), ‘Actualité de la Convention Européenne des Droits de l’Homme’, Actualité Juridique du Droit Administratif, 537 (arguing that the scope of the echr has been extended towards the inclusion of social rights).

  • 79

    See F. Sudre (2011), Droit européen et international des droits de l’homme, 10eme edn, Paris: puf, at 659 (arguing that the scope of application of the echr has been extended towards the indirect protection of foreigners – protection par ricochet in the original version)

  • 80

    International Labour Office (2010), International Labour Migration: A Rights-Based Approach, available online at; iom (2013), International Migration, Health and Human Rights, available online at, at 12; B. Ndiaye (2011), Addressing Irregular Migration Through a Human Rights Based Approach, Talk at the Global Forum on Migration and Development, available online at

  • 99

    Council of the European Union, supra note 32, at 6.

  • 104

    European Commission (2011), European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals, (Communication), com (2011)455 final; Council of the eu, Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the European Union, no 14615/04.

  • 106

    K. Banting and W. Kymlicka (2006), Multiculturalism and the Welfare State: Recognition and Redistribution in Contemporary Democracies, Oxford: Oxford University Press; C. Joppke and S. Lukes (eds) (1999), Multicultural Questions, Oxford: Oxford University Press; T. Sumino, ‘Does Immigration Erode the Multicultural Welfare State? A Cross-National Multilevel Analysis in 19 oecd Member States’, 3 Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2014) 436–455.

  • 107

    European Commission, supra note 104, at 3.

  • 108

    European Commission (2013), 4th Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum (2012), (Communication) com (2013)422 final at chapter iii-4, 8.

  • 111

    The Stockholm Programme, supra note 15; European Commission, supra note 104.

  • 112

    L. Solivetti (2010), Immigration, Social Integration and Crime. A cross-national approach, London: Routledge, at 132.

  • 120

    Solivetti, supra note 112, at 132.

  • 121

    D. Kostakopoulou (2008), The Future Governance of Citizenship, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, at 34.

  • 123

    See R. van Oers (2013), Deserving Citizenship. Citizenship Tests in Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, Leiden: Brill/Nijhoff; K. Groenendijk (2012), ‘Integration of Immigrants in the eu: the Old or the New Way?’, in: Y. Pascouau and T. Strik (eds), Which Integration Policies for Migrants? Interaction between eu and its Member States, Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, pp. 3–14.

  • 126

    European Commission, supra note 104.

  • 128

    Kostakopoulou, supra note 121, at 1.

  • 129

    Anderson, supra note 47.

  • 133

    D. Held (1991), ‘Between state and civil society: Citizenship’ in G. Andrews (ed.), Citizenship, London: Lawrence and Wishart, p. 20.

  • 137

    T.H. Marshall (1950), Citizenship and Social Class and Other Essays, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • 144

    Marshall, supra note 137.

  • 146

    See especially B.S. Turner (1993), Citizenship and Social Theory, London: Sage; P. Taylor-Gooby (2008), Reframing Social Citizenship, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • 148

    Anderson, supra note 47.

  • 149

    Ruhs, supra note 45 at 185.

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