European Union social policy

Facing deepening economic integration and demand for a more social Europe with continuity and cautiousness

Authored by: Miriam Hartlapp

Routledge Handbook of European Welfare Systems

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367259150
eBook ISBN: 9780429290510
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter presents quantitative and qualitative developments of EU social policy over the last two decades. It differentiates between instrument types (spending, regulatory, and coordinating) and areas of EU social policy (freedom of movement, unemployment, old age, and health) to show that overall continuity prevails. Economic integration continues to dominate over social integration, developments are incremental and frequently take place in form of soft, non-binding rather than binding instruments. This is astonishing as deepening economic integration, austerity policies, and hardship of the economic and financial crisis create demand for more or for a different EU social policy. Turning to potential explanations for this paradox, the chapter finishes by discussing the heterogeneity of member states and their interests as well as EU politics.

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