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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

EU Socio-Economic Governance and the Future of European Welfare States

European Politics
European Union
Section Number
Section Chairs
Amandine Crespy
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Jonathan Zeitlin
University of Amsterdam
Section Co-Chair

Since the onset of the global financial crisis a decade ago, social issues have become increasingly prominent in EU governance and policy debate. Over this period, the European Commission has launched a series of initiatives aimed at enhancing the social dimension of European integration and Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), from the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Social Investment Package to the ‘Social Triple A’ and the Pillar of Social Rights. Social and employment issues figure prominently in the European Semester, the EU’s post-crisis architecture of policy coordination, including the Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs), as they did in the Economic Adjustment Programmes and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) imposed on bailout countries during the crisis itself. Many member states have undertaken more or less far-reaching social and employment policy reforms, which they have often sought to justify by reference to EU requirements and recommendations. EU legislation and jurisprudence are likewise central to the increasingly politicized debates about free movement, posting of workers, and access to national social welfare systems. If the EU’s growing salience for national welfare states and employment systems is widely acknowledged, the causes and consequences of these developments remain hotly contested, both positively and normatively. While some see the EU as a catalyzer of the debasing of national welfare states, mainly driven by imperative of fiscal discipline, others stress the socially balanced approach from within the EU institutions and the broad room for manoeuvre left to national decision makers leading to differentiated outcomes.

This section invites panel and paper proposals on all aspects of EU socio-economic governance and its interplay with social and employment policymaking and political debate in the member states. We are particularly interested in questions such as the following: What is the balance in terms of substantive social policy orientations and recommendations from the EU institutions to the member states, between austerity and retrenchment, on the one hand, and investment and progressive recalibration, on the other? How are key decisions taken in EU socio-economic governance, and how influential in its processes are different groups of actors (supranational/intergovernmental, social/economic, business/labour/civil society)? How has EU socio-economic governance, from legislation and court decisions to policy coordination and bailout packages, influenced national social and employment reforms in different countries and time periods, through what pathways and causal mechanisms? What are the ideational underpinnings of the EU and/or national policy orientations? And which narratives have national decision makers articulated to legitimize the reforms? Has EU socio-economic governance become more centralized and hierarchical since the crisis, and how much flexibility and autonomous room for manoeuvre does it leave to the member states? What are the political dynamics of national social and employment policy reforms and what implications do they have for the future of European welfare states? How do EU and national actors deal with the tensions arising from the single market and the opening of national labour-market and welfare-states boundaries? With which outcomes? The section welcomes papers that address these questions from diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives.

Panel List

Code Title Details
P003Author Meets Critics Panel on A European Social Union after the Crisis, edited by Frank Vandenbroucke, Catherine Barnard and Geert De Baere View Panel Details
P055Reconciling Economic and Social Europe(s) after the Great Crisis View Panel Details
P056Reforming EU Socio-Economic Governance: Ideas, Discourses, Agendas View Panel Details
P063Social Policy-Making in the EU: Actors, Institutions, and Processes View Panel Details
P079The European Semester: Institutional Dynamics and National Influence of EU Socio-Economic Governance since the Crisis View Panel Details
P084The Multi-Level Politics of EU Socio-Economic Governance View Panel Details
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