3 December 2018

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.


In 2013 Frank Vandenbroucke coined the notion of a European Social Union (ESU) in order to clarify our thinking about the so-called social dimension of the EU.  This new expression contains three implicit messages. First, it invites us to propose a clear-cut institutional concept, in contrast to the elusive notion of ‘a Social Europe’. Second, it indicates that we should go beyond the conventional call for ‘a social dimension’ to the EU as if today’s EU has no social dimension whatsoever. Third, it explicitly suggests that what is needed is not a European Welfare State, but, precisely, a Union founded on two principles. On the one hand, national welfare states should remain responsible for organizing interpersonal redistribution among their citizens; on the other, they should take up the commitment of sustaining forms of tangible solidarity among themselves as collective entities.

The adoption of a European Pillar of Social Rights in November 2017 and the forthcoming elections for a new European Parliament, in May 2018, constitute a unique opportunity to relaunch and enrich the ESU debate. The Pillar has marked a point of no return: either it will be a sufficiently convincing and recognizable success, or it will be a high-profile failure. Given the political cost of an eventual failure, those of us who care about the social dimension of European politics should now work on an interpretation of the Pillar that maximizes its positive potential. For this initiative to have an impact on EU policy-making, a first condition is that it is sufficiently powerful: it must be connected in a convincing way with functional necessities and broadly accepted aspirations of European integration; and it must fit into a consistent conception of the role the EU should play and the role it should not play in social policy. The idea of a European Social Union can provide a fertile context for the search and specification of such raison d’être,  by pointing to both possible justifications and practical opportunities.   

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. Other comments will follow. The debate will not be purely theoretical. Participants will, of course, discuss conceptions and raisons d’être,  but they will also explore their potentials in reference to practical options and concrete proposals.

 

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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