A Social Europe? A Winter's Tale

After the tortuous, laborious debate about a liberal “European social model”, which was based on the social policy Torso of the Maastricht Treaty in 1991 (EU treaty), the “Opt-out” of the British and the decades-long obstruction of any Communitisation of social policy by them, Mario Draghi, delegate of Goldman Sachs and president of the European Central Bank, issued the motto in 2012 with proper contempt towards the subalterns that this model was dead.

Since the financial crisis of 2008 and the Renaissance of the financial market-driven accumulation regime, the balance of power between Labour and capital had shifted all too successfully in favour of the latter, so that the EU would have had to undergo the effort, as before in the NAP Inclusion periods I + II, to make something like social Integration or inclusion, at least formally, the subject of the hegemonic projects it administers. Philip Mirowski coined the Motto: “Never let a serious crisis down to waste.”

Market dictates social policy

In any case, since 1991, the EU’s social policy has been primarily used to open up social services to financial capital through the enforcement of social service markets, procurement regimes and state aid bans, most recently in the form of the “Social Entrepreneurship Initiative” or “Social Impact Bonds”, in order to be able to generate profits with homelessness, Hunger, violence or mental illness. Outside of market logic, Social Security is categorically unthinkable for these people.

Already in 2012 it became clear: the neoliberal nightmare continues unchecked. The political class of service, only briefly taken aback by the impending Implosion of social democracy and the trade unions, announced by the capitalization, marketization, austerity, the welfare state, removal, discipline and social control of the unemployed and the poor, privatisation and constraints for self-provision, decreasing net wages and a socialist collectivization of the debts with the institutional investors, gamblers and Rich.

Their Efforts were crowned with success: Since 2008, the asset Gini exploded. In Austria, the top percent is 40.5 percent of total assets (534 billion euros) with an average of 14 million euros per household. A further four percent of households own 15.7 percent, while another five percent own 9.5 percent of assets. Sohin on the top decile 65.7 percent of the assets, while 40 percent 31.7 percent own. The bottom 50 percent of households share four percent of wealth. However, the lowest two Deciles have Negative assets in the Form of debt. Ten percent of households are over-indebted, so they can no longer even pay current interest.

Of course, such inequality and market liberality cost: in 2017, 112.9 million people, or 22.5 percent of the EU’s population, were still at risk of poverty or social exclusion for 222 million people in employment (2012: 24.9 percent). Between 2013 and 2019, the unemployment burden halved from 13 to 6.2 percent; at the same time, the number of “Working Poor” rose to eight percent (18 million) and that of low-wage workers to 17 percent (38 million). A quarter of the workforce is precarious, half of them in atypical employment.

The social and political costs of this EU-Non-Social-Policy are astronomical. Apart from the fact that the people concerned consistently abolish or damage themselves by means of elections not only as a political subject, but also as an economy. The cost of Brexit is 1.2 to 4.5 percent of GDP, depending on the country. Even the political Service Class of the ideal total capitalist is illuminated.

Now, although the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009 had eliminated the three-pillar model of the Maastricht Treaty (TFEU) as the birth of an institutionalised policy of neoliberal socialisation, in the absence of left-wing counter-power, it still did not develop any socio-political competence beyond labour market policy, the horizontal social clause in Art. 9 TFEU and the “Open Method of Coordination”, i.e. a socio-political “Soft Law”.

Thus, EU legislative competence in the field of social services of general interest is not found in the Treaty of Lisbon (TFEU), apart from the principles of “services of general economic interest” (Art. 14 TFEU), while non-economic (social) services remain the exclusive competence of the member states. Thus, the social policy of the EU was limited in accordance with art. 151 to 161 TFEU continue to apply to labour market policy and, in this context, to the free movement of labour (export of benefits, limited entitlement to use needs-tested benefits in case of transnational job search). The European Social Agenda 2010 merely wanted to create more flexible employment relationships with a “modernised social protection”, but concealed how this should be possible while at the same time softening the collective bargaining systems.

Lukewarm phrases and …

When President Jean-Claude Juncker announced the pillar of Social Rights (“European Social Pillar”) in 2017 as an epochal step towards modernising social security in Europe, there was great disappointment. From the announced big hit, 20 state target provisions remained in flowery language, such as an unenforceable “right to fair wages and working conditions”, an indefinite “right to health care”, measures to improve the “Work life Balance”, an orientation towards social inclusion and the announcement of a closure of the “Gender Pay Gap” (GPG).

Once again, it became clear that a concept of commercialization impregnated with austerity policy does not allow the incorporation of a “Social Pillar” in primary law. Because of the much-lauded “Social Pillar” could only fight poverty and exclusion, if he would need for enforceable, comprehensive, individual rights to money, property and services in the event of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, or lack of participation in Education grant.

Such rights would have to be equally enforceable in a Europeanized manner and oriented towards the EU-SILC thresholds. In EU economic and labour law, the” Social Pillar " would not only have to prevent corporate strategies of social dumping (wage undercutting competitions in the competition of suitable locations) and the creation of non-contractual zones, but also tax competition between the member states of the Union.

According to Joseph E. Stiglitz (2016), a social policy pillar would also have to include a solidarity Financial Stability Mechanism, Eurobonds, a common deposit insurance scheme and, as a first step, a common unemployment insurance scheme. Following Mariana Mazzucato (2014), she would have to open up inclusive employment opportunities. Following Michael Hudson (2016), it would not only have to take into account Eduard Heimann’s idea of social policy as a repair shop for an autophagous capital-utilisation mechanism, but simply initiate the Keynesian death of the reindeer: “Don’t even think about it.”

In contrast, the papers on the “European Pillar of Social Rights” (ESSR, 2017) read like a lukewarm Set of phrases of symbolic politics. In this"wash-me-but-don’t-wet-me “approach, the Maastricht criteria, which have been institutionalized dozens of times by law or constitutional law as” debt brakes " in the member states, remain in force and continue to apply the maxims of austerity and market opening. Nonchalantly, competences for tax unification, combating tax evasion, poverty reduction or the creation of inclusive employment fall behind the feasibility horizon. For the foreseeable future, there will be no uniform rules governing the taxation of assets, gifts, inheritances and foundations.

Anyway, not a political constellation is currently conceivable, which would open up a trajectory towards an EU policy of social inclusion, as President Of the Leyen has just made it clear that the next Commission relies on strategies of flexibilisation and Atypisierung work, administrators of the competition of articulation and marketization of social services, but not on a strategy of reduction of inequality and regional disparities. After the Troika’s campaign in Greece, it is clear that the EU is not interested in (social) democracy, sovereignty, the rule of law and the welfare state as soon as the interests of the coupon cutters are affected.

Thus, intra-state conflicts of distribution and transnationalized location competition will continue to limit the scope for action of social policy. The” Open Method of Coordination “(OMC), i.e. the development of social policy Arrangements through mutual learning between member states moderated by the EU Commission, continues to have only a weak regulatory effect as a” Soft law”. The commission itself remains limited to making recommendations; even indirect sanctions for” lack of willingness/ability to learn " are omitted.

A non-activating welfare state in the neoliberal EU Talk of Detour-profitability-oriented social policy (and not only in the “Frames”, emotions, pictorial simplifications and content-free excitations of national social policy) is ultimately understood as a barrier to competition. Fully committed to the legendary balance mechanism of the “Swabian housewife” (what is spent must first be taken), the commission is rhetorically swathed by an “investive social policy” or a “Social Return on Investment”. In fact, however, this only serves as an ideological smokescreen to conceal the fact that this basically means an economization and commercialization of all social services of general interest.

… Lip service

At best, the commission paid lip service to the fact that the prevention benefits of state Intervention can be demonstrated, that demand-oriented transfer services embody directly demand-oriented income with a savings rate of zero, and that the costs of the “Non-Social Policy” under Ceteris paribus conditions (it is still not possible to simply dispose of the “superfluous” of society) are higher than those of prevention. But it did not become a” Social Pillar”. On the contrary: The Absurd projecting, refeudalisierte inequality, as well as the pervasive Terror of the marketization, making people sick, stupid, and open to fascist political solutions, not considered explicitly as a touchstone of the EU social policy.

Not distribution, but market opportunities of the subalterns should bring the matter into dry clothes. The connection between increasing inequality, overaccumulation, disinvestment and declining growth rates is also stubbornly not seen as a socio-political Problem.

In the face of eroding solidarities, declining resilience resources, rising social Darwinian reflexes and right-wing nationalist island solutions, the commission is indeed alienating from foreclosure. Nevertheless, the political elites are unable to recognize that their market-fundamentalist, supranational project is breaking down. Trapped in the straitjacket of German ordoliberalism and austerity, the EU proves incapable of developing a socially inclusive, real-economy-oriented and, at best, ecologically sustainable growth strategy.

A fiscal union with uniform financing mechanisms (wealth, inheritance and gift taxes), an end to the anti-social location competition and communitised social networks seems unthinkable to her. The ECJ has also successfully shaken the foundations of the welfare state by extending the freedom to invest and paved the way for neoliberal anti-welfare measures. The Visegrad states, both ethnically-social and nationalist, block any new attempt to Reform primary law. As a result, a European welfare state as a social pillar in the treaties, only a mere idea, is conceivable, but far from any realisation.