The Sustainability of the European Social Model
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The Sustainability of the European Social Model

EU Governance, Social Protection and Employment Policies in Europe

Edited by Jean-Claude Barbier, Ralf Rogowski and Fabrice Colomb

This book argues that the European Social Model can only be sustained in the current economic crisis if social and employment policies are adequately recognised as integral parts of European economic policy-making. The contributing authors investigate this hypothesis through comparative evaluations of interactions of EU economic governance with national systems of social protection. In particular they focus on two key policy areas – social services of general interest and the regulation of working time – as well as covering areas such as social inclusion, active ageing policies and job quality. By combining sociological approaches with legal analyses, the book provides unique insights and evaluation of EU methods of governance.
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Chapter 11: Legal uncertainty in social services: A threat to national social protection systems?

Jean-Claude Barbier


The overarching research question in this chapter is whether the influence of EU law on social services is contributing to their ‘sustainability’ or rather to their ‘uncertainty’. With this interrogation in mind, one could review legal literature and check it against views of actors in the social services. The results lead to the conclusion that the very concept of SSGI (Social Services of General Economic Interest) is apparently less clear than existing notions in national legal orders. As EU governance keeps extending its reach, more uncertainty is then presumed to happen in the future and engender fresh problems. These conclusions should be put in the wider context of the characteristics of EU law explored in the book as a key instrument of governance in a domain, social policy, where the EU has very few legal competences. The overall assumption at the start of the project was substantiated: in interaction with national law (and various forms of domestic regulation) EU law brings uncertainty with it, at least for certain groups of Europeans, and more explicitly in certain countries. This uncertainty is mainly of a legal nature. It does not mean, however, that this influence automatically translates into difficulties and threats to existing domestic systems, for the essential reason that, between the making of EU law and its ‘application’ in practice, many complex processes happen, including the possibility of non-application. For this reason, consequences vary according to ideal-types of social protection, to countries, and also, within countries, to groups and individuals.

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