The European Semester and EU Social Policy

Friday, July 14, 2017
John McIntyre - Room 201 (University of Glasgow)
Paul Copeland , QMUL
The move from the Lisbon Strategy to Europe 2020 was momentous. That and developments under the European Semester signal a major change of direction  in EU social policy. There have been new governance arrangements, orientations and politics. Against this backdrop, this paper has two guiding questions: How have EU social actors been able to advance EU social policy under seemingly unfavourable conditions? What is the nature of the social policy project that is being advanced? Answering these two questions speaks to a range of important issues, not least the relationship(s) between economic and social policy, the different ways in which this important relationship varies and is politically managed, and the complexities involved in establishing legitimacy for social policy interventions on the part of the EU. Our analysis reveals that social actors were able to advance EU social policy in the Semester by developing the evidence base with the creation of indicators and the mimicking existing practices in economic policy. But the structural conditions prevailing not only ensured that policy outcomes were modest, but that they were conditioned to fit within the EU’s broader macro-economic paradigm. Social policy undertakings within the Semester, especially the Country Specific Recommendations, have been cost neutral and generally crafted in a way that foregrounds incentives for labour market participation.