Comparative European Politics

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 805–824 | Cite as

Mobilising social rights in EU economic governance: a pragmatic challenge to neoliberal Europe

  • Owen ParkerEmail author
  • Robert Pye
Original Article


A ‘constitutional asymmetry’ exists at the heart of contemporary EU socio-economic governance, privileging the economic at the expense of the social. Prevailing academic responses suggest, on the one hand, the need for radical constitutional reforms aimed at redressing this asymmetry and, on the other hand, piecemeal reforms reliant on current soft and non-binding modes of governance for the championing of social concerns. Offering a pragmatic middle way between these positions, we identify the potential within the extant constitutional settlement to pursue a rebalancing in favour of the social. In particular, we highlight the Commission’s pre-existing legal and rhetorical commitment to social rights, arguing that it might draw on the standards established by the Council of Europe’s European Committee of Social Rights and incorporate these into its economic governance mechanism, the European Semester. Such a step would usefully repoliticise socio-economic governance in the short term and promote radical reform in the long term.


Eurozone crisis Economic governance Social Europe Social rights 



The authors would like to thank the following for discussion and engagement on the ideas contained herein: colleagues at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI), particularly Tony Payne, Colin Hay and Scott Lavery; David Gow at Social Europe Journal; participants at the Euromemo Group 2015 meeting in Roskilde, Denmark, particularly John Grahl; Simon Bulmer; Amandine Crespy; and the anonymous reviewers of this paper. The usual disclaimer applies. Robbie Pye would like to thank the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Owen Parker the UK Leverhulme Trust for supporting their work in this area.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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