When size and diversity do not really matter: the dismal political economy of social and labour market policy coordination in the EU

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Series Details Occasional Paper, No. OP06.03
Publication Date 2006
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It has been argued in this paper that EU widening and deepening may not be causally related, instead being separately determined, yet similarly shaped by supply of and demand for geographically expanding the common market and Community institution building respectively. As a matter of fact, whether widening and deepening are jointly or independently pursued is an empirical issue. It obviously depends upon changes in the size and diversity of Community membership. Yet it may also depend, more subtly but often overwhelmingly, on specific motivations underlying Community institutional reform. Therefore, the issue becomes policy sector-specific.
Thus, modest institutional reform in the area of Community social policy has historically been weakly associated, if at all, with (Community) enlargement. After all, allocation of powers and competencies between the Community and its member states in regard to welfare and employment issues has, since the early days of European integration, been systematically related to the efficiency – equity classification of social policy objectives, the (vertical) equity objective being almost exclusively served by (democratically legitimized) national social and labour market policies. Being largely ascribed to divergent and, of course, fully respectable equity preferences, diversities amongst national social and labour market policies have, therefore, had virtually no bearing on Community enlargement(s). On the other hand, sustainability of national social policy diversities, however wide those diversities might have been, has barely been threatened by economic integration, for economic and
political reasons alike, political agitation notwithstanding. Yet, realization of the equity objective has, since the mid-70s, been getting increasingly costlier in terms of jobs and growth and its prevailing conceptualization has, even, been cast in doubt. Reform of national welfare policies and institutions has, thus, been rendered inevitable. In the face of reform, governments as well as domestic interest groups have eagerly been investing in Community institutions, including social and labour market policy ones, in order to effectively increase their influence on domestic policy making. However, their strategies have often been unproductive and even backfired. Nevertheless, they are unlikely to be put aside.

Source Link http://www.eliamep.gr/eliamep/files/OP06_03.pdf
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