Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


3. The Integration of Social Citizens

A reading of the Maastricht Treaty leaves us with the impression that what is being created is a new welfare state. Article 123 set up a Social Fund. The German obsession with `equal': now only `equal-value' since unification included living conditions within Article 117, which talks about `harmonising standards of living.' It is likely that egalitarian traditions in Europe will never lastingly permit such big differences in social status as exist in the US.

In the seventies, the Left criticised the EU for being a `supermarket'. The real attempts at fusion did not come until the nineties, and tended to be weaker than the ones extending beyond Europe. A uniform wage policy is not expected from the Maastricht round by the experts (Joerges 1991:283). The first protest actions in Latin countries show that many deteriorations in social conditions are readily laid at the door of the Eurobank, and, indirectly, the Bundesbank.

Positive integration of sovereignties, with the European level being able to regulate broad areas of social policy, is not yet in sight as a continuing process. Waves of national calls for more sovereignty for national decision-makers are likely. The French initiatives by associations of the unemployed are probably only the forerunners of populist tendencies towards re-sovereignisation in the area of welfare policy. The literature on Europe does not comprise agreed-on scenarios for future development. Paradoxically, it tends to be more the `left' authors, like Leibfried and Offe, who are interested in a policy of more European integration in the social sector. This becomes understandable if one bears in mind that, for party-neutral innovative policies without too much consideration of structures that have grown up nationally, they have more trust in the EU than in the nation-state. One study, in contrast with many opinions to date, arrives at the conclusion that party politics plays a very sub-ordinate part in the Commission's decision-making (Morgan & Tame 1996; Landfried 2001). The mainstream authors on the other side tend more to take the view that the core area of distributive social policy, education and culture will remain a nation-state domain. Authors tending towards attitudes of `constitutional patriotism' (Nassehi & Schroer 1999:111) rightly take the view that only an extension of welfare policy can lastingly bring about a de-ethnicisation of Europe. Whichever scenario proves the likelier in the future, there is, even now, no doubt that processes above and below the national systems are cramping the national parliaments' space for decision-making. What is controversial is the actual sectors in which the following processes will take place, and how fast they will go:

a) A process of regionalisation, whereby regional assemblies are seeking to strengthen themselves through the EU regional policy, at the expense of national parliaments.

b) A process of Europeanisation, where increasingly more areas which seemed to have been reserved to the national parliaments are being regulated from Europe. This process is being imperceptibly, but effectively, promoted by European Court of Justice case law and the creeping unification of legal systems.

c) A process of globalisation, where the national level is left only with the consolation that world-wide organisations such as the World Trade Organisation or GATT are beginning to pay the EU back for what it has done to national decision-making bodies, since the room for manoeuvre of even the European organisations is increasingly being hemmed in by the global level, albeit, to date at least, in a highly sectorally-limited fashion to date.

As the social policy competence is taken away from national parliaments, the conflict over its extent can only be settled through sub-classifications. Some point to the effects of unification of corporate-governance and of worker-participation regulations. Others demarcate the merely `social regulatory' measures from the distributive and redistributive measures. The former have undoubtedly been more strongly Europeanised, through Articles 100a and 118a in the Single European Act. The social regulatory areas also include environment protection in Title VII, which Europeanised where the old EC confined itself to merely promoting intergovernmental co-operation. Including the work environment, health, and consumer and environment protection meant that major areas were taken away from national parliaments (Majone 1996).

Yet, there are important reasons in favour of the assumption that the core area of the welfare state will still be nationally regulated for a long time. The model of genuine federations, which continue to endow the individual states with far-reaching competences and have not become `unitary federal states' in the manner of Germany or Austria, demonstrates-especially when exemplified by reference to the US-that the capacity for regional differences to persist is high. In 1990, California was still paying welfare recipients six times as much as poor Alabama. If the old nation-states did not manage to homogenise the welfare state at state level, then it is unlikely that the EU can be more successful here. It has only 4% of the expenditure of all the national governments, and less than 1.3% of the EU gross social product available to it. In view of the budget restrictions, it is unlikely that the nation-states really should want to do anything about the shortage of means for redistributive policies. The successes of individual forms of redistributive policy-such as regional policy-are not so nearly so impressive as to exercise a pulling effect on welfare policy in general. Thus, alongside security and defence policy, social policy will presumably continue to remain a pillar of the decision-making competence of national parliaments.

The extension of social citizenship will, in the long term, be likely to set off the sharpest conflicts, since the EU has, to date, relied more on the market than on national state institutions (Jachtenfuchs & Kohler-Koch 1996a:29). The nation-states are thereby compelled to dabble in areas that they would have preferred to have left unregulated. Conversely, positive integration is being pushed forward through initiatives from Brussels that lie behind the national legislative initiatives and are often perceived as outside control. According to German estimates, this influence still amounts to less than 10% in the social sphere; whereas, in agriculture, initiatives from Brussels lie behind 42% of German legislative acts in the Bundestag, and already lie behind 100% of legislative acts in the area of Posts and Telecommunications. (Töller 1995:47).



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