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Annex 6: What future for Social Europe ?

Catherine Mathieu (), Henri Sterdyniak () and Thomas Seguin
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Thomas Seguin: École des hautes études en sciences sociales

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Abstract: ‘Social Europe’ has various meanings. It may refer to the current intervention of European authorities in the fields of social protection and employment legislation, as a complement or sometimes as a substitute to national institutions interventions. The role of European authorities is clearly stated in European Treaties that assert that MS remain responsible for their social protection. At the same time, the logic of European construction, the rising interdependence of economies, the interconnection of economic and monetary issues lead European authorities to tend to increase their role in social issues and to pilot ‘the modernisation’ of national social protection systems. But social Europe may also refer to a political project, aiming at increasing the power of European authorities in social areas: there would be a social Europe like there is today an economic or monetary Europe. This social Europe would lead to unify gradually European social systems. This would imply a transfer of sovereignty which would be questionable since the role of social partners would be reduced and there would be no guarantee on the content of this social Europe, possibly moving towards a liberal or social-democrat system. Social Europe may imply a step back in social democracy in Europe. At the same time the explicit recognition that Social Europe exists and that it should be managed in an open and democratic way, could be a progress as compared to a situation of constrained convergence. Last, Social Europe may refer to a political project aiming at deepening the European Social Model, by unifying social protection, redistribution and employment legislation towards the top. This could take place through the gradual introduction of social norms in each country at high and progressively similar levels. But there is no consensus in Europe on the content of this social Europe (...).

Date: 2007-09
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