Is the EU an Agent of “Neoliberalism”?

Based on more than 1300 economic reform recommendations, the authors of this article take a close look at economic policy coordination in the Euro Area since 2012. Since the Eurocrisis, the EU’s role in coordinating economic policies has become more prominent. The article asks whether it has used this newfound power to push members towards “neoliberalism” (less state intervention in the economy) or a “social Europe” (more state intervention). 

By analysing the number and content of country-specific recommendations (CSRs) issued under the European Semester, the authors paint a detailed picture of EU economic policy coordination in recent years. They find that the EU promotes “flexicurity” in most countries, that is, less worker protection but more social protection. No country was asked to lower social protection on balance. However, the data shows a worrying tendency for the EU to ask governments to increase social protection while cutting spending. This is challenging for any government and can lead to social recommendations being ignored. Over time, recommendations to spend more and to better protect workers have become more common in relative terms. Somewhat surprisingly, the authors do not find a trend towards “socialising” the European Semester. Rather, pro-social recommendations have dominated from the start. 

Jörg S. Haas, Valerie D’Erman, Daniel F. Schulz and Amy Verdun (2020). Economic and fiscal policy coordination after the crisis: is the European Semester promoting more or less state intervention?Journal of European Integration, 42(3), pp. 327-344


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