Does the European Union devote sufficient attention to social developments? Many people feel that it does not; they consider Europe to be anything but socially minded. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, wants to change this. To this end, she has expressed emphatic support for an action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights in its entirety. A new large-scale European study of the EU's social dimension, led by University Professor Frank Vandenbroucke at the University of Amsterdam, will help to translate this intention into concrete policy measures. The research consortium has been awarded over three million euros in funding via the EU's Horizon 2020 programme.
This research project, ‘The Future of European Social Citizenship’ (EUSOCIALCIT), focuses on the social dimension of the European Union. The researchers will examine what it means to associate social rights to European citizenship. If a Pillar of Social Rights is to be developed, which social rights should take priority, how should the notion of ‘rights’ be understood in this context, and what is the best way to implement them in practice?
'To a large extent, our project centres on the European Pillar of Social Rights'
'This solemn declaration includes twenty admirable principles of social policy. It was put forth by the previous European Commission and was adopted by the Member States in 2017', Vandenbroucke explains. 'However promising, we have yet to turn these principles into tangible realities. The fact that the new Commission President is committed to translating these principles into policy means that there will be a strong demand for the type of research which we conduct.'
If promoting social rights in all Member States is an explicit policy objective, it will be necessary to address the enormous social differences between EU Member States as well. This objective also implies a stronger focus on preventing major socio-economic shocks and on the protection of citizens when such shocks occur.
'Ultimately, we have to develop not only a notion of what European citizenship means, but also a vision on the kind of society in which citizenship can flourish; social exclusion and poverty have no place in such a society. In addition, people who are assured of their fundamental social rights will also have greater faith in public administration – which also applies to the European Union. The challenge, in short, is to integrate the social dimension into European policy as a whole and to connect it to a clear understanding of what European citizenship means', Vandenbroucke says.
This project will analyse both the arguments in favour of developing European social rights and the expectations of people across Europe. However, it will not be a purely theoretical study. Concrete policy scenarios for reinforcing European social citizenship will be compared and contrasted. The study will focus primarily on the three objectives that are strongly represented in the European Pillar of Social Rights: the empowerment of citizens, fair employment conditions and social inclusion.
Vandenbroucke will collaborate within the project with UvA colleagues Brian Burgoon, professor of International and Comparative Political Economy; Maarten Keune, professor of Social Security and Labour Relations; and Dr Nuria Ramos-Martin, associate professor of Labour Law. The UvA is acting as coordinator for the consortium. In addition to the UvA, participants include the University of Antwerp, Copenhagen Business School, the University of Milan, the Centre for European Policy Studies, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, SGH Warsaw School of Economics, the University of Konstanz and the Lithuanian Social Research Centre.
This project is extremely ambitious for a number of reasons. Economists, political scientists, lawyers, sociologists as well as specialists in social policy and labour market developments will pursue intensive collaboration in order to arrive at a shared vision that transcends the individual disciplines.
It was likewise a conscious decision for the consortium to unite researchers from a Baltic state (Lithuania), a member of the Visegrád Group (Poland), southern Europe (Italy and Spain) and some of the most developed welfare states in north-west Europe (Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium) within a single undertaking.
The need for a social dimension in the European Union is all too often considered solely from the perspective of the most developed welfare states – a mistake that this project emphatically wishes to avoid.
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Programme group: Political Economy and Transnational Governance