European Social Union: a public forum debate

A set of articles authored by high-level academic figures deals with the establishment of the European Social Union (ESU) from a policy and normative perspective. The aim of this issue is to let the debate on the potentialities of ESU emerge during the run-up to the next European elections of May 2019.

“European Social Union: a public forum debate” is an editorial project dealing with the possible establishment of a European Social Union (ESU), the prospects of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) and the role that the latter might play as one of ESU’s key components.

A set of articles authored by high-level academic figures will discuss the raison d’être of ESU, the EPSR and their mutual link from a variety of perspectives.

In parallel with the publication of these in-depth articles, EuVisions will produce a second set of contents, involving policymakers and top officials. This second series of contents will take the form of podcast-interviews.

The aim of the editorial project is to let the potentials of ESU and the EPSR emerge during the run-up to the next European elections of May 2019.

EuVisions aims at involving key national and European media outlets, as well as think tanks and universities to maximise the reach of this debate.

To get in touch with EuVisions and participate as a partner in disseminating the contents
of the debate, please write to

Introductory contributions to open the debate




List of available podcasts

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Download the Report

The European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Social Union: creating the link

In order to encourage and facilitate the conceptual and policy link between the Pillar and ESU, Euvisions launches today a debate with two introductory contributions by Frank Vandenbroucke and Maurizio Ferrera, followed by two comments by Manos Matsaganis and Anton Hemerijck.

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The European Pillar of Social Rights: from promise to delivery – An introduction to the ESU debate

by Frank Vandenbroucke, University of Amsterdam

In November 2017, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission jointly and solemnly proclaimed a European Pillar of Social Rights: a set of 20 principles about equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions, and social protection and inclusion. Some principles are well-known, as they have already been formulated in the context of earlier efforts to coordinate the Member States’ policies.

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Crafting the ESU: towards a roadmap for delivery

by Maurizio Ferrera, University of Milan

At the end of his introductory contribution to this debate, Vandenbroucke invites a reflection on priority selection and on a possible “roadmap for delivery” – building in particular on the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). In this contribution, I want to pick up this invitation and make a proposal on how the bold intellectual idea of a European Social Union could be turned into institutional practice.

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Snakes and ladders on the road to ESU

by Manos Matsaganis, Polytechnic University of Milan

In joining this debate, I will focus on three topics: the constraints placed by diversity, and how to overcome them; the limits of unemployment (re)insurance, and the need to address new forms of ‘worklessness’; and the contribution of a European Social Union to the goal of coping with the transformations of work.

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Who’s afraid of the European Social Union? A contribution to the ESU debate

by Anton Hemerijck, European University Institute

Untold lessons from the Great Recession call for a transformation in the Eurozone governance regime from a ‘disciplining device’ over member welfare states into a European Social Union (ESU) as a ‘holding environment’ for active welfare states to prosper.

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A Timely Call for a Social Union

by Laszlo Andor

A Social Union cannot just mean more EU level legislation, as it cannot purely be built through more policy coordination or through budgetary instruments either. All three arms of governance have to play a role and in due coordination.

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The European Social Union as a “union of national welfare states”: a legal perspective

by Francesco Costamagna

The fact that the ESU is not intended to be a European Welfare State, but a union of national welfare states, together with the idea according to which the ESU is set to become the institutional counterpart to the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) are two features that provide a strong normative orientation to the efforts aiming at creating the ESU.

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The European Pillar of Social Rights: ten arguments for prioritising principle 14 on minimum incomes

by Bea Cantillon

The ethical program of the Union should be guided by the principle that everyone is entitled to an adequate minimum income. The time has come to proclaim that a European compact on minimum incomes is not only possible and, desirable, but actually necessary.

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A European Social Union should address the causes of growing inequalities

by Chiara Saraceno

If achieving a European Social Union means developing a fairer society for all its citizens (and also for non-citizens who come to live here), the causes of ‘unfairness’ and of inequality-producing mechanisms, including those created by the Union itself, should be tackled.

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The way ahead for a European Social Union? Let’s focus on political citizenship and taxation

by Waltraud Schelkle

Political citizenship in the EU and protection of tax states are aspects of an ESU that create a holding environment. They would enable a union of diverse welfare states to live together.

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Towards a European Social Union: from spillovers to just transitions

by Andrew Watt

Some individual policy areas where I believe a case for moves towards a European Social Union could most readily be made comprehend ending unanimity on tax, coordinating and strengthening collective bargaining and national automatic stabilisers, establishing cross-border automatic stabilisers.

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Social Europe and social justice: three steps to save Europe

by Graham Room

Against the market optimism of recent decades, European austerity has exposed the social class divisions of capitalism. Now we need three steps to save Europe.

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A European Social Union for all: a chance to rethink and redo justice and solidarity

by Trudie Knijn

We cannot outline a way forward until we have analysed the roots and causes of decades of neo-liberal reforms, such as deregulation of financial markets, marketisation and outsourcing of public services, and austerity-driven social policies.

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Towards a European Social Union? A Rokkanian–Mephistophelian remark

by Martin Heidenreich

The deep frictions in the aftermath of the financial and eurozone crises and the related crisis of legitimacy might lead to greater consciousness of the gap between the winners and the losers of Europeanisation processes. In the best of all worlds, this might be the power basis for a stronger and more integrated European Social Union.

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The European Social Union: addressing challenges on the labour market

by Caroline de la Porte

The success of the EPSR – and by extension the development of the ESU –  depends upon engagement and ownership by governments and social partners in member states.

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The European Pillar of Social Rights as a Revival of Social Europe

by Sacha Garben

Even if the Pillar cannot address all the EU’s social failings, it has put a surprising social spin on the Better Regulation Agenda and helps rebalance the EU’s output by reviving the use of the Treaty’s Social Title.

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Challenges to ‘united in diversity’ in a European Social Union: Taking the core–periphery conflict seriously

by Vladimir Bogoesky

In the context of Brexit and rising Euroscepticism across the continent that has focused on (mis)interpretations of the effects of labour mobility, the question of a European Social Union cannot sidestep the East-West chasm and treat the Eurozone as its only priority.

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The European (Social) Union is in need of a ‘Social Imbalances Procedure’

by Francesco Corti, Sebastiano Sabato and Bart Vanhercke

The Social Imbalance Procedure would use the redefined indicators included in the Pillar’s Social Scoreboard, in accordance with the analysis provided in the annual Joint Employment Report. Countries displaying ‘critical situations’ in one or more of the five policy areas mentioned above would be encouraged by the European Commission to request the Social Imbalance Procedure.

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