European Integration and the Welfare State

Two aspects need to be distinguished when we contemplate the relationship between European integration (i.e., the formation and expansion of the European Union and development of the European single market) and the Welfare State:

  1. the development of a social dimension at the level of the European Union (EU), and
  2. the effects of European integration on the Welfare systems of the various EU member countries.

The European Social Dimension

A Brief Overview of European Integration - An Ever Closer Union

Since the signing of the TREATY OF ROME on March 25, 1957 the EUROPEAN COMMUNITY has undergone a remarkable transformation (See The European Union - A Guide for Americans for more information on the history and operation of the EU).

In the last four decades great progress has been made toward an ever closer union. This process has been sporadic but effective. Originally consisting of three separate communities (EUROPEAN COAL AND STEEL COMMUNITY, the EUROPEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY, and the EUROPEAN ATOMIC ENERGY COMMUNITY) and of SIX member states (Belgium, Germany, France, Luxemburg, Italy, The Netherlands), the organization merged into the EUROPEAN COMMUNITY (EC) on April 8, 1965. Subsequently, the EC expanded, first by three new members (Danmark, Ireland, United Kingdom,) in the 1970s, another three members (Greece, Portugal, Spain) in the 1980s, its most recent three members (Austria, Finland, Sweden) in the 1990s. Following the opening of negotiations with the countries of Eastern Europe and Cyprus in the late 1990s concerning future membership, the EU is expected to expand to more then 20 member states early in the 21st century.

The EC has not only expanded by adding new members (widening), but also by integrating economically and politically (deepening):

On April 8, 1965, the three Communities merged into the European Community (EC). On July 1, 1968, a Customs Union between all EC economies was completed.

On March 13, 1979, European Monetary System (EMS) became operational, which established the foundation for EUROPEAN MONETARY UNION (EMU) two decades later.

On July 1, 1987, the SINGLE EUROPEAN ACT entered into force. It established a single internal market based on the free movement of goods, services, labor and investments, and was completed by January 1, 1993.

On December 11, 1991, the EUROPEAN UNION TREATY (also known as Maastricht Treaty) was agreed upon. It entered into force on November 1, 1993, establishing the EUROPEAN UNION (including citizenship) consisting of THREE PILLARS: THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY (EC), COMMON FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY (CFSP), JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS (JHA). Against the objections of the United Kingdom, the Maastricht Treaty included, as an annex, the so-called SOCIAL PROTOCOL. All member states (except the U.K.) were subsequently authorized to have recourse to the institutions, procedures, and mechanisms of the Treaty for the purposes of implementing their AGREEMENT ON SOCIAL POLICY.

On June 18, 1997, work on the AMSTERDAM TREATY was concluded. Becoming effective two years later, this treaty revised and updated the Maastricht Treaty in several respects. It strengthened political cooperation among now 15 member countries in many areas, significantly expanding the EU's role in foreign and security policy, as well as in social policy. Moreover, the SOCIAL PROTOCOL was incorporated into the treaty itself. As the third major revision of the Treaty of Rome which is thus of the EU's constitutional framework, the Amsterdam Treaty also reaffirmed the fundamental values, rights and freedoms that serve as the foundation of the Union.

On May 2, 1998, 11 EU members qualified for MONETARY UNION and, subsequently for the introduction of the new European currency, the EURO.

On July 1, 1998 the new European Central Bank was inaugurated in Frankfurt, Germany.

On January 1, 1999 EMU was launched and the EURO became legal tender in 11 EU member countries ("Euroland"). By July 2002, all national currencies are to be withdrawn.

Explaining European Integration and EU Social Policy - Conceptual Issues