This timely book addresses a number of enduring debates regarding the political and legal trajectory of the European Union's evolving constitutional framework, namely the role and nature of social policy. On the one hand, the purse strings of the national welfare states are still firmly guarded by the Member States, which retain the power to tax and grant benefits. On the other, the logic of the liberalisation of markets has placed a number of competitive pressures upon welfare states, upon national systems of labour law, and upon labour markets, which remain largely national in character. Such national systems are, by their very nature, diverse, notwithstanding the competitive pressures coming from intra-EU market liberalisation and, more recently, globalisation and the effects of the WTO. Many have therefore asked the question about the possible nature and character of any putative ‘European social model’, and the position of such a model under the EU's evolving constitutional settlement, in which market integration has played such a central role.
The book takes the story from the beginnings of the European integration process, with the ECSC Treaty, the work of the ILO, and other precursors to the initially minimalist social provisions of the EEC Treaty, right through to the present day. It charts the ongoing pressures for change, and the reactions of various key actors, including the political institutions of the European Union, the European Court of Justice, and the national governments. Different styles of regulation have evolved, with a decisive shift towards soft regulation.