Resistance to Liberalization

Due to the failure of political integration as early as the 1950s—notably with the rejection of the European Defence Community by France in 1954—the European Community has been mainly geared towards economic integration. This was reflected in the nature of the Treaty of Rome adopted in 1957 with the establishment of the ‘four freedoms’ (circulation of goods, services, capital and people) as the cornerstone for building a common market. Insofar, the genealogy of European integration is intrinsically liberal (Gillingham 2003; Denord and Schwartz 2009). As explained in the previous chapter, liberalization policies have been at the heart of the re-launch of EU integration since the adoption of the Single European Act in 1986. The opening of national markets to foreign competitors and the end of national monopolies has been particularly evident in sectors which have a general interest dimension (energy, transport, post, etc.) and had been protected from competition under the regime of mixed economies in the post-war era. Originally, liberalization only affected the industrial segments of markets and infrastructures. Progressively, however, the scope of liberalization has been extended

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 A. Crespy, Welfare Markets in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-57104-5_3

to services to the wider public. This has gone hand in hand with the acceleration in the 1990s of treaty revisions extending the scope of EU competences, on the one hand, and the rise of the politicization of EU matters, on the other. According to N. Jabko, the process of market integration re-launched in the late 1980s can be seen as a ‘quiet revolution’, while ‘market reform reached deep into economic and social structures’ (2006, p. 6). As Jabko deals with the consensus on market making among national governments, resistance within societies is overlooked. This leads him to overemphasize the consensual nature of EU politics and neglect the genuinely conflict-laden nature of integration through the market.

The marketization of welfare services has rarely been at the centre of the political debate. Rather, it has been a slow and ongoing process related to broader policy agendas such as the modernization of the welfare state at the national level, the creation of the Single Market and fiscal discipline required by the Monetary Union at the EU level, or the liberalization of trade in services at the global level. These policy agendas have been accompanied by narratives serving to justify the disengagement of states from the provision of welfare services. As the effects of liberalization policies have become even more visible at the local and national levels, contestation has flourished. In fact, the marketization of welfare services has been regularly, albeit only occasionally, contested at all levels of governance over the past two decades. Insofar, it has been something of a quiet revolution.

The first section in this chapter gives an overview of various forms of contestation vis-a-vis the marketization of welfare services in the form of industrial action, sectoral mobilization coordinated at the European level and, more recently, broader ad hoc coalitions gathering unions and various citizen groups or NGOs. The chapter then turns to the most contentious debate ever related to EU legislation, namely the heated conflict surrounding the Services Directive between 2004 and 2006. It is shown how salient politicization could result in softening the deregulatory and liberalizing nature of the proposal. Finally, the third section surveys policy developments in the realm of public policies to show that the marketi- zation agenda has been sustained.

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