Working paper
Social Protection: Why the EU needs to deliver
Les Cahiers européens de Sciences Po
DEHOUSSE Renaud - Centre d'études européennes de Sciences Po (Auteur)
Paris : Centre d'études européennes et de politique comparée
Les Cahiers européens de Sciences Po : 03/2008
Mots clés
Social protection, Solidarity, EU institutions
Conventional wisdom in European studies has long held that social policy is not an area in which the European Union can make a large difference. Solidarity, it is said, can only develop in societies where clear boundaries exist between individuals. Such is not the case in the EU, where a citizen’s primary allegiance is to his own country. Redistribution being a zero-sum game, the majority method of decision-making is required, which may only be viable if the legitimacy of central institutions is clearly established. The legitimacy of the EU institutions, however, is said to be weak. In addition, a number of different traditions of welfare protection co-exist within the EU, as has been stressed by Gösta Esping-Andersen (1990). Citizens are strongly attached to their national brand of protection: in several countries, this is even regarded as a key element of national identity. The history of European integration has done little to belie these views. Social policy has experienced relatively modest progress, and the difficulties inherent in the adoption of European financial perspectives, undermined by the evils of “juste retour” have shown that redistribution and unanimity are indeed at odds. [First paragraph]