A New Era of European Integration? Governance of Labour Market and Social Policy Since the Sovereign Debt Crisis

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In this article we develop a typology of European Union (EU) integration to capture how, to what extent and according to which policy aims EU involvement in Member States has altered with respect to labour market and social policy and what it signifies in terms of institutional change. On this basis, we show first that new instruments – the Six-Pack, Fiscal Compact and Two-Pack – have been layered onto the existing institutional framework governing the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Furthermore, we show that the instruments strengthening budgetary discipline to improve the functioning of European Monetary Union have become more explicit in terms of policy objectives, particularly specifying new benchmarks to obtain fiscal discipline. They are also stricter in terms of surveillance and enforcement. Second, we show that there are initiatives to address and improve the social dimension of the EU – Europe 2020, the Social Investment Package and the Youth Guarantee – and that these have also emerged through a process of institutional layering. However, the aims around Europe 2020 and Social Investment continue to be based on the voluntary Open Method of Coordination, with comparatively weak surveillance and enforcement. In the current context, and in order to attain economic growth together with social cohesion and welfare, it is of utmost importance that EMU criteria should be altered to take account of social investments
Original languageEnglish
JournalComparative European Politics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)8-28
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Reprinted in: Caroline de la Porte & Elke Heins (eds): The sovereign debt crisis, the EU and welfare state reform (2016). Palgrave Macmillan UK, p. 15-42.


  • European Integration
  • Institutional change
  • Stability and growth pact
  • European social policy
  • Governance

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