These developments have also affected the financing of certain public policies whose aim it is to guarantee equal opportunity, including education and training. Moreover, the decline in living standards for specific populations and regions, together with complications in public financing, has often fuelled extremist movements across Europe ultimately weakening political systems and national unity.
To achieve a fairer, more dynamic, and more sustainable growth, the contract between European nations needs to be reexamined and reinforced. To leave to individual nation states alone to manage the social consequences of the ongoing changes, whether the real or imagined products of European policies, might constitute a threat to the European project as a whole.
It is neither realistic nor desirable that the chief responsibility for social policies be reattributed to the European Union. But supranational action is justified where it is more effective. Additional European-level activity would prove advantageous in four major fields: avoiding lowest common denominator outcomes in the realms of labour laws, taxes and wages; better targeted support for individuals, industries and regions subject to the stresses of structural change; encouraging geographic mobility; and, finally, facilitating other joint actions when effectiveness requires.
This policy brief is more than a discussion of general principles. Indeed, it outlines a series of concrete proposals in these four fields listed above. Several of these proposals could be initiated in accordance with the EU’s enhanced cooperation procedure to ensure that social progress would remain unhindered by any blocking minorities. These proposals could be readily accommodated by the budgetary framework now under discussion for European policies, and it could be shaped to avoid putting increased demands on the European taxpayer.