Social policy as a 'productive factor' and the Lisbon Agenda

After the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty (1992), the social dimension of the European Union gained progressive prominence in EU publications. The White Paper of the Commission on Growth, Employment and Competitiveness (European Commission, 1993a) for the first time delineated the 'European Social Model' as a combination of economic performance and social solidarity, based on a mixed market economy with significant public intervention and social dialogue practices. The White Paper also underscored the importance of the development of a specific social dimension in cooperation with the Member States. Using a more declarative language, the Comite des Sages in 1996, in its position paper For a Europe of Civil and Social Rights stated that: 'Europe will be a Europe for everyone, for all its citizens, or it will be nothing. It will not tackle the new challenges now facing it—competitiveness, the demographic situation, enlargement and globalisation—if it does not strengthen its social dimension and demonstrate its ability to ensure that fundamental social rights are respected and applied' (Lourdes Pintasilgo, 1996). From the mid 1990s, the EU increasingly took on a more pro-active role as a social policy agenda-setter. The European Employment Strategy, based on the new Employment Title of the Amsterdam Treaty, launched in 1997, and especially the Lisbon Strategy, adopted by the European Council in 2000, are exemplary of the EU's new commitment to catalyse domestic social reform. The obvious intensification of economic integration made EU policy elites increasingly aware that in order to maintain popular support for the European project, EU institutions must be able to present themselves to European citizens as credible institutions able to mitigate economic insecurity.

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