The European Union (EU) is in motion and a lot has changed in recent years. Having been in constant crisis mode since the Eurozone crisis broke out, the Union has been on the back foot for a rather long time. In the wake of this plight, it has become less and less clear what the Union actually stands for. The EU sanctioned austerity drive in particular has done significant damage. The economic and social decline induced by this policy has eroded the societal foundations of European integration and will continue to do so. For the unemployed young of today, the EU seems more like a threat rather than a promise for a better future. This has to change. And this can only change if the EU clearly demonstrates how it can be a positive force in people’s lives. In other words, it finally needs to develop a significant social dimension, a Social Europe, rather than just being a bureaucracy whose reputation is deteriorating rapidly because it is perceived to inflict undeserved harm.
The discourse about a Social Europe is of course not new. After all, this is the title of this e-journal and a topic we have been dealing with since we started publishing eight years ago. But against the backdrop of recent experiences we need to ask a fundamental question anew: what does a Social Europe actually mean today? In a Union characterised by either much faster political integration or gradual renationalisation in its Eurozone core, growing scepticism across all member states, and economic and social problems unprecedented in modern times we need a new definition of a Social Europe. This new definition needs to be conceptually strong but also practical so real political measures can flow from it. Sketching out this new Social Europe is the task of a new project we are launching today.
We are excited that the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the IG Metall, the WSI of the Hans Böckler Stiftung, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and Lasaire have joined us in this project. Over the coming weeks, we will bring together leading thinkers and practitioners to examine in-depth the issues related to a modern understanding of a Social Europe. At the end of the project, we will have a much clearer view on what kind of social dimension the European Union should develop. Project contributions are run as part of the normal SEJ publication schedule but will also be published as an eBook at the end of the project. After the stunning success of our eBook on European Growth, which has been downloaded almost 8500 times, we decided to keep this format for this project.
Everybody is invited to contribute, via comments on the project articles and videos or maybe even own submissions. After all, creating a Social Europe is a collective task. We are determined to drive this endeavour forward.