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Home arrow Marketing arrow Welfare Markets in Europe: The Democratic Challenge of European Integration
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Conclusion

This chapter has not sought to establish an account of Europeanization as the enforcement of neoliberalism from the top upon national societies. Rather, it has located the contribution of the EU to the marketization of welfare services in the broader landscape. On the one hand, we have witnessed a global neoliberal restructuring of capitalist economies which has shaped a broad ideational context where competitive markets are seen as most effective means for the allocation of resources including the provision of services which entail a strong public interest dimension. On the other hand, outcomes of policy implementation are strongly mediated by national institutional and policy legacies in the various ‘worlds’ of welfare services across Europe. Distinctive political trajectories make a difference, too. Notwithstanding national and global factors shaping marketization, this chapter has shed light on the distinctive ways in which regional integration in Europe has contributed to accentuate marketization. This can be mainly explained by the fact that, for historical reasons, European integration has mainly taken the form of negative integration focused on the building of a common European market through the opening of national markets (liberalization), the abolition of incompatible national regulation with competition law (deregulation) and the competition between former national monopolist companies with new private providers (privatization). This powerful marketization dynamic has been underpinned by integration through law with the use of liberalization directives, the enforcement of competition law (notably the curtailing of state aids) and judgements of the ECJ in case of conflict between national regulation and EU law. The Europeanization of SGI provision also accounts for a dynamic of positive integration, since EU legislation and case law account at ensuring the provision of ‘public services obligations’. However, this form of re-regulation has proved rather weak, vague and there has been little evaluation or control of actual implementation. The chapter has therefore substantiated, by focusing on welfare services, Fritz Scharpf’s argument that negative integration has prevailed in the EU mainly through an overlap between integration through the market and integration through law. However, the broader debate on European integration and neoliberalism shows that such policy developments do not follow a deterministic logic. Rather, they are the result of politically contentious debates and decisions. The way in which the concept of SGI has been shaped and reshaped in the successive EU treaties, for example, is an illustration of this. Thus, the following chapters of this book will investigate further the politics of SGI and show how resistance against marketization has been vocal yet relatively contained since the end of the 1990s.

 
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