Economic and Social Constitutionalism after the Treaty of Lisbon "an Interdisciplinary Perspective"

The debate about a Constitution for the EU has highlighted tensions between "Social Europe" and "European Economic Integration." These are only partly reflected in the Treaty of Lisbon.

Accordingly, the task to investigate the balancing of these tensions in EU law and politics remains current, even after the entering into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. This is the theme of the project.

To analyse these tensions as experienced by European citizens, it will be necessary to consider not only the EU level constitutional normative framework, but also its interaction with law and politics at national level.

Theories of multilevel governance in the EU can and have been used to investigate the interrelation between economic integration and social Europe. There is, however, a lack of research on the interrelation of these dimensions across all levels.

Such neglect is an obstacle to the attainment of socio-economic aims enshrined in the Lisbon strategy, which aims at generating the most dynamic knowledge based economy in the world. This requires Europe to maximise skills and knowledge of people, both EU citizens and migrants from other parts of the world.

Accordingly, the analysis of the interaction between social and economic European integration is called for.

The project aims to develop a theoretical framework for comprehensively appraising economic and social constitutionalism in a multi-level polity.

To this end, three exploratory studies examining the effect of economic and social integration at Member State level will be conducted. These focus on the fields of immigration, services of general interest and corporate governance.

Project Outputs

The main outputs of the research are a round table conference to establish a wider research context, leading to a book publication, and a conference which took place on 4th September 2009. 

The results will have an impact on policy developers as well as on civil society, in particular through civil society involvement in the case studies.

The book with the title "European Economic and Social Constitutionalism after the Treaty of Lisbon" is going to be the publication of the results of the Jean Monnet Multilateral Research Group 'European Economic and Social Constitutionalism after the Treaty of Lisbon - an Interdisciplinary perspective', conducted as a common endeavour by the Universities of Leeds (Dagmar Schiek, principal investigator), Bremen (Ulrike Liebert) and Maastricht (Hildegard Schneider).

The academic and political debate about a Constitution for the EU as well as recent ECJ judgements such as Laval (ECJ C-341/05 [2007] ECRI-11767) and Viking (ECJ C-438/05 [2007] ECR I-10779) have highlighted tensions between "Social Europe" and "European Economic Integration". These tensions and ways forward on how to better alleviate them were only partly reflected in the Treaty of Lisbon. Accordingly, researching Economic and Social Constitutionalism after the Treaty of Lisbon seemed still a very topical endeavour in 2007 when the application for this research project was launched. Now, since the Treaty of Lisbon has entered into force in 2009, the theme has become even more topical, which is mirrored by the first publications on the Treaty coming forward.

The research project, the results of which will be published by Cambridge University Press, aimed at developing a "framework for appraising economic and social constitutionalism in a multilevel polity" and illustrating the usefulness of this framework through the conduct of three case studies spanning different socio-political fields and modes of governance at the same time.

The project considers governance as an element of constitutionalism. This implies that different forms of governance (governance by judicial enforcement of directly applicable Treaty norms versus governance by demanding implementation of Community legislation versus governance through so called soft law mechanisms such as the Open Method of Coordination) are examined in their relationship to and relevance for economic and social integration. The case studies explore how the interplay and remaining tension between economic and social constitutionalism develop in European socio-political fields characterised by different styles of governance. The case study on national health service providers (especially third sector providers) under competition law constraints explores the constraining effect by directly applicable, "hard" EU law, comparing public health care in England and Wales and the Netherlands. The case study on social integration in EU secondary legislation on immigration and its use in the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Spain and Denmark considers harmonisation by directives in its effects on a specific policy field. The case study on corporate social responsibility explores the effects of non-binding politics.

The book will in the first part contain two chapters outlining the framework that was developed within the project by two of the principal investigators and two more chapters commenting on this framework from the perspectives of legal and political studies. In its second part, three chapters will focus on emanating tensions between social and economic dimensions of European integration, each of these referring to one of the socio-political fields covered in the case studies. Finally, the third part will contain the case studies developed during the life time of the project by research teams at the Universities of Bremen, Leeds and Maastricht.

Related Work by the Participants

Presentation by Dagmar Schiek in Porto (PDF) on the Fifth Pan-European Conference on EU Politics, Porto, Portugal.