Social Justice in an Ever More Diverse Union
The ‘European Social Model’, ill-defined and under-theorised as it may be, is widely perceived as the great looser in the political and institutional re-configuration of the European integration project which we have witnessed under the impact of the financial crisis. The state of social Europe is indeed deplorable. The turn to austerity politics has not only led to the imposition of rigid ‘structural reforms’ on countries of the European South, but reflects a general retreat from the welfare state commitments which were until recently understood as a common European legacy. The search for a preservation and renewal of that legacy must not focus exclusively on topical claims and urgencies. It will have to include an exploration of potential failures in the design of the European project and the conceptual frameworks which have guided its praxis. The critical reconstruction in this paper reveals continuities, discontinuities and missed opportunities. EMU as established by the Maastricht Treaty and complemented by the Stability and Growth Pact is identified as a turning point: a break with the integration through law tradition which nevertheless failed to open avenues for legitimate political and economic governance. Under economic emergency of the financial crisis the commitment to the financial stability of the Eurozone as a whole necessitated the imposition of austerity measures. After the legalisation of Europe’s crisis politics by the Pringle and Gauweiler judgments with their recognition of wide discretionary powers of the ECB in its understanding and implementation of Europe’s monetary policy, it has become more difficult than ever to overcome the barriers against renewed efforts to strengthen the social dimension of the integration project.
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