Working Paper. No 314: The European Social Pillar: A Threat to Welfare and Prosperity?

Abstract: In November 2017, the European Union proclaimed its fourth pillar, The European Pillar of Social Rights., to promote a “truly pan-European” labour market. A large number of specific social rights are endorsed. This paper investigates the potential short- and long-term consequences of the social pillar on the welfare and prosperity of Europe. Moreover, we discuss its potential effects on the legitimacy of the European Union.

Our conclusions indicate that rather than to “support and complement” the social and labour market policies of the Member States, the European Union is likely to replace these policies with the “better” goals of the Union in an effort to fully implement the principles established in the social pillar. The principle of subsidiarity in this case promotes centralisations. There are strong reasons to believe that increased centralisation to EU-level in these areas will reduce preference satisfaction, weaken accountability and decrease efficiency and innovation. In the long run the social pillar therefore is likely to be a threat to welfare and prosperity in Europe, and as a consequence, cause damage to the legitimacy of the European Union.