Chapter 9: The Future of the European Social Model: Modernisation or Evolution?
9.1 INTRODUCTION In this closing chapter we assess the future of the European Social Model (ESM). The Lisbon Strategy, the consolidation of EMU and the recent enlargement together pose major challenges for Social Europe. Extending or even sustaining social protection seems especially problematic within the context of ambitious EU economic objectives, tightening fiscal policy and the challenges and opportunities posed by enlargement. At the same time the new emphasis upon policy-making through social dialogue and the developing role of soft law through the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC) are changing EU social policy towards a bottom-up approach. Our concluding arguments are structured as follows. In section 9.2 we reassess the current state of European social policy. We summarise the current status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the new Constitution, and identify the main challenges and opportunities. A modernised social model will have to embrace more variant legal traditions and systems as well as increasingly competitive, insecure and flexible labour markets. Having set out the challenges and opportunities for the EU25 in terms of future social and economic goals, section 9.3 re-examines whether greater diversity will threaten to reinvent a more aggressive form of social dumping. Addressing the social and economic paradox, section 9.4 provides a resolution of the hard law versus soft law debate, whilst section 9.5 emphasises how the OMC has emerged as the new face of soft law. This prevalence of soft law establishes a third way of governance in the ESM examined in section 9.6....
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