WP 9/2016 The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived: a contested and contentious (but successful) reconciliation pathway08 Nov 2016
ABSTRACT - The working paper deals with a recent EU social initiative - the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) -that from the RESCEU perspective, despite its narrow scope, can be understood as a puzzlingcase of “reconciliation” at the EU level. Launched in 2014 to contrast severe material deprivation, the FEAD was meant to represent in symbolic terms a way to both increase the visibility of EU action in the social field and to stem the harshest social consequences of the economic downturn.By focussing on this program,targeted to the lower tier of pan-European solidarity, the paper has two main goals. First, from a descriptive standpoint, it aims at providing an overview of the main institutional features of this novel component of the European social sphere. Interestingly the empirical reconstruction of the long process that brought about the adoption of the FEAD shed light on a peculiar historical pathway that took the form of a slow moving process of transformative yet gradual institutional change:not a big transformation in response to big shock, rather an incremental change with highly transformative results (Streeck and Thelen, 2005). Second, from an interpretative standpoint, the paper advances some preliminary hypotheses on the political and institutional dynamics behind the adoption of the new scheme, that appears puzzling on two fronts. On the one side, it represents an unlikely case of supranational activism in the social sphere in an expansionary direction, that occurred within a scenario of overall de-conciliation and econocratic negative integration (cf. Ferrera, 2014). On the other side, it affected a policy field – the fight against poverty and social exclusion – which is particularly unlikely to be Europeanized, since it is typically characterized by a strong defense of national sovereignty. Not surprisingly, findings suggest that the adoption of the FEAD resulted to be a contested and contentious decision, that fostered the emergence of harsh tensions. Despite this, the institutional and political sponsorship of the proposal proved to be strong enough to have the Commission’s initiative not only passed but even strengthened, in terms of scope and financial budget, during the legislative process.
ABSTRACT - The European Union – and the Euro-zone in particular- is currently torn by a number of widening fault lines. What is at stake is not only economic and institutional performance, but the very stability / continuity of the Union as a political system. The first and most visible fault line concerns the functioning of EMU and opposes North and South, "core" and “peripheral”, "creditor" and "debtor" Member States. The second line runs from West to East and mainly concerns the free movement of persons, capital and services in the internal market. It pits countries with consolidated welfare and high taxes/contributions against countries with relatively limited welfare, low labor costs and low regulation. The third line is rooted in the institutional asymmetry of the EU system of government, programmatically tilted in favor of market-making and against market correcting policies. The fourth line is, finally, of a vertical nature: “Brussels” (supranational institutions) against national governments and their sovereignty in policy areas deemed crucial for democratic legitimation and social cohesion [...]
in West European Politics, Vol. 37, issue 4, 2014, pp. 825-843.
The article starts by identifying the main institutional components of the (elusive) concept of Social Europe: the ‘National Social Spaces’, i.e. the social protection systems of the member states; the ‘EU Social Citizenship Space’, i.e. the coordination regime that allows all EU nationals to access the social benefits of other member states when they exercise free movement; the ‘Regional Social Spaces’, i.e. sub-national and/or trans-regional social policies; and the ‘EU Social Policy’ proper. Based on such reconceptualisation, the article then revisits the main analytical insights and substantive findings of the volume’s contributions, focusing in particular on dynamics of ‘social re-bounding’ during the crisis, on national implementation processes, on the relevance of ‘fits’ and ‘misfits’ for social policy compliance and on issues of democratic control. In the conclusion, some suggestions for future research and for the EU’s social agenda are put forward.