Friday, 10 May 2019 18:28

Promoting the Social Dimension of Europe in Adverse Conditions: The European Pillar of Social Rights and the Role of the European Parliament

Vesan, P. & Corti, F (2019), Promoting the Social Dimension of Europe in Adverse Conditions: The European Pillar of Social Rights and the Role of the European Parliament, in Journal of Common Market Studies.


Over the years, the relationship between national welfare states and the EU integration process has been undermined by inherent tensions. On January the 19th 2017, the European Parliament voted in support of a broad report about the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). This comprehensive and ambitious initiative, launched by the European Commission in March 2016, has the purpose to strengthen the social facet of the European Monetary Union.

In this paper, we aim to identify the «possibility space» that such attempt of reconciliation can meet. Building on a neo-Weberian approach, we argue that such possibility space will result from the interplay between the intellectual and political spheres of the European institutional architecture. In this regard, we provide a picture of the political dynamics and policy proposals emerged during different phases of the European decision-making process by focusing on the structural constraints (and opportunities) met by European Parliament (EP) that voted in support of a broad report on the EPSR at the beginning of 2017.

Our paper looks at the the positions of the main EP groups (EPP, S&D, ECR, ALDE, GUE-NGL, Greens) through the analysis of single votes and amendments, the interviews to MEPs and assistants, and the examination of secondary sources. The focus is both on the bargaining process within the Employment and Social Affairs Committee Committee and MEPs’ behaviors in the plenary session.
The analytical description of the content and process of the parliamentary debate serves as a basis for the interpretative part of the paper. We explain the parliamentary outcome as the result of both specific ideas (framing of problems; values; normative justifications) and political factors (institutional structures and procedures; coalitions; strategies of legitimation and production of political goods).

Our paper contributes to the debate in a three-fold sense. Firstly, it provides insights about those actors who shape the intellectual ground of the EPSR and/or have an effective say in the decision-making process. Secondly, it paves the way for analyzing the EP's attempt to influence the EU Commission in the drafting process of the EPSR and the White paper on the future of EU that is expected in Spring 2017. Finally, the analysis spotlights a portion of the possible ‘reconciliation scenario’ that a renewed promotion of Social Europe is likely to meet.

This paper is part of RESCUE - «Reconciling Economic and Social Europe: the role of ideas, values and politics – REScEU», a five-years research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) aimed at investigating the complex interplay between two precious legacies of the XX century, the nation-based welfare state and the European Union. The mutual relationship between those two spheres has been in fact fraught by unresolved tensions (and a potential “clash”), which the recent crisis has markedly exacerbated. The project purpose is to cast new light (theoretically and empirically) on the genetic roots of such tensions, their temporal swings, the possible institutional solutions and their political pre-conditions.


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