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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds To continue the debate on the European neoliberal project in the previous video, its opponents, in fact, fear further erosion of the European social model. Yet such a fear only can be substantiated if there is such a thing as a European social model. What, then, does this concept refer to? While for certain countries, the origins of social welfare systems reach back to pre-World War I times, we can really only speak of a European social model from the early beginnings of the European Integration Project.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 seconds From the onset, it was agreed that the underlying principle upon which to build a new Europe was to be solidarity and cohesion where economic growth would serve to boost overall social wellbeing and would not take place at the expense of any section of society. Over time, the model has been codified in several EU treaties such as the Treaty on the European Union, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, or the latest Lisbon Treaty. The purpose of these was to protect the social model against the very neoliberal and market forces discussed earlier this week. For instance, the completion of a single European market was accompanied by strengthening the European Union social, cohesion, and environmental policies.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 seconds According to the European Trade Union Confederation, we can talk of five fundamental elements of the European social model. One– fundamental social rights such as the freedom of association, the right to strike, or equality and nondiscrimination. Two– social protection grounded in a system of wealth redistribution achieved through taxation. Three– social dialogue fostering dialogue between workers and corporations. Four– social and employment regulation in such fields as health, safety, and job protection. And five– state responsibility for full employment, for providing services of general interest, and for economic and social cohesion.

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 seconds As for instance, the result of the French referendum on the European constitution or the rise of such political parties as Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain clearly showed, there are many proponents of the European social model who argue that this is increasingly under attack from dominant neoliberal forces. At the same time, there are those that oppose either maintaining the European social model in its current form or even strengthening it, arguing that it prevents the European Union as a whole, but also the individual member states, from competing against countries and regional groupings that have lower social standards.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds As a result of which, they are often able to offer more appealing conditions to global investors looking for the next big investment opportunity. These views are certainly not marginal, as for instance became obvious during the 2005 referendum on the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe held in the Netherlands. Amongst many other reasons why the Dutch said a firm no is the belief that the newly to be created European Union was too social. And what are the implications of both seeing the EU as a neoliberal project or as a social model for the traditional understanding of the nation state?

Skip to 3 minutes and 32 seconds In it’s most simple form, due to the integrative processes of the last decades, the state is forced to look to the European Union for support in furthering its own domestic agenda which often differs according to domestic political constellations at a given time. In other words, some countries regard the EU as the only possibility to maintain or strengthen their social models while others seek the EU’s support in furthering their neoliberal agenda.

The European social model

We continue the debate on the European neoliberal project that started in the previous video. Here, Dr Marek Neuman introduces the idea of a European welfare state.

Some have argued that European integration has furthered the social welfare system, rather than placing it under threat. We explain how solidarity, cohesion and other norms attached to the idea of social welfare state were codified in EU treaty laws. We also discuss how the European social model has been transformed in the context of what was defined as a sovereign debt crisis - in which EU member states suffered penalties from the financial markets because their state debts were already high and/or rapidly growing - and why we see more and more voices questioning the present system.

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