The Revenge of Neglected Issues

EU Founders and Social Policy

in French Politics, Culture & Society

The founders of European integration had to make momentous choices that have since deeply marked the EU. They decided to focus their efforts on market-building, hypothesizing that economic interdependency would lead in time to “spillover“ beyond the new Europe's original mandates, a decision that left many key dimensions of national sovereignty outside the mandate of integration. One of these dimensions was social policy, roughly defined as the welfare state and labor relations. This division between what the EU could and could not do has lasted, with limited exceptions, to the present. Market integration over time, however, indirectly shifted the ground under national social models, sometimes imposing adjustments that have worked against the legitimacy of Europeanization. More recently the EU, concerned about the need for social policy reform to confront globalization, has attempted to coordinate national social model change by “soft power“ methods. These methods, by and large, have not been effective. This essay will discuss the consequences of the founders' choices historically.

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