The Way Forward for Social Europe: How Do We Get There from Here?

Publication Date01 September 2014
AuthorJudy Fudge
Date01 September 2014
The Way Forward for Social Europe: How Do We Get
There from Here?
Judy Fudge*
Nicola Countouris and Mark Freedland (eds), Resocialising Europe in a Time of
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, 525 pp, £65.00.
Labour law is where the market and the social meet. When both of these
domains mapped on to the boundaries of the nation state, the traditional
institutions of democratic politics – including trade unions – had the capacity to
influence the balance between market forces and social concerns, in large part
through labour law. However, within the European Union, the market and the
social have become profoundly misaligned. Market integration has dismantled
the national boundaries to facilitate factor (goods, capital, services, and labour)
mobility, while competency over social policy in general, and labour law in
particular, lies primarily, albeit not exclusively, with the Member States. The
EU’s institutional architecture and substantive competencies, when combined
with the adoption of the Euro and the inclusion of Member States with wage
costs and social entitlements that were not aligned with those of existing
members, placed redistributive and protective national labour laws in jeopardy of
negative harmonisation through downward competition. The 2008–9 financial
crisis and consequent Euro and sovereign debt crises brought the threat to
national labour laws home to roost. As part of the conditions for obtaining
international loan agreements, the ‘Troika’ of creditors (the European Commis-
sion, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund) required
affected EU Member States (Greece, Ireland, and Portugal) to reform their
labour laws in order to reduce labour market rigidities and strong employment
protection as part of the process of internal devaluation.1
This constellation of political and economic events provoked Nicola
Countouris and Mark Freedland, two labour law scholars based in the UK, to
organise a two-day conference in London in May 2012 on Resocialising Europe
*Kent Law School.
1 S. Deakin and A. Koukiadaki, ‘The sovereign debt crisis and the evolution of labour law in Europe’
(175–176). Deakin and Koukiadaki note that at the time of writing their chapter, although Italy and
Spain had not yet completed loan agreements, they were under significant pressure to introduce
similar changes to their domestic labour markets.
© 2014 The Author. The Modern Law Review © 2014 The Modern Law Review Limited. (2014) 77(5) MLR 808–822
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

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