Does the European Union devote sufficient attention to social developments? Many people feel that it does not and consider Europe to be anything but socially minded. The current European Commission wants to change this. To this end, it has expressed emphatic support for an action plan to implement in its entirety the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), which is a solemn declaration that includes twenty admirable principles of social policy. EuSocialCit, which is the acronym for ‘The Future of European Social Citizenship’, is a research project which will help translate this intention into concrete policy measures.
The EuSocialCit project is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework programme for Research and Innovation. It is developed in response to the call for proposals with ID H2020-SC6-GOVERNANCE-04-2019, which centered upon the question of how to get to a more social and fair Europe, and spoke directly to the European Pillar of Social Rights.
If promoting social rights in all Member States is an explicit policy objective, it is necessary to address the enormous social differences between these Member States as well. Having a more socially just Europe also implies a stronger focus on preventing major socio-economic shocks and a better protection of citizens when such shocks occur. Ultimately, building a more socially just Europe not only requires to develop a notion of what European citizenship means, but also a vision on the kind of society in which citizenship can flourish. The challenge, in short, is thus to integrate the social dimension into European policy as a whole and to connect it to a clear understanding of what European citizenship means.
EuSocialCit provides scientific analysis in support of this challenge, and analyses both the arguments in favour of developing European social rights and the expectations of people across Europe. The project however will not be a purely theoretical study. It also provides alternative policy scenarios to strengthen European social citizenship by comparing and contrasting concrete policy scenarios for reinforcing European social citizenship.
Overall, EuSocialCit pursues the following five objectives:
Amongst the 29 papers, reports and policy briefs that the EuSocialCit project will publish, there are two flagship reports. The first is called The State of Social Rights and European Social Citizenship. It will be a synthetic report that brings together all of the project’s empirical research on social rights in the EU. The second is called The Future of Social Rights and European Social Citizenship: A Study of Alternative Policy Scenarios. The focus of this report is on future policy. It explores questions that follow from the idea that social rights are part of European citizenship and addresses shortcomings and possible improvements to the exercising of social rights in light of citizen perceptions and preferences. It will present a series of alternative policy scenarios, discuss criteria for the definition of policy priorities, and also the substance, feasibility and location within the EU’s multi-level governance structure of various policy options that can respond to the shortcomings and demands identified in the first report on the existing state of rights and European social citizenship.
EuSocialCit engages in extensive empirical analysis of how European citizens have been exercising their social rights in the recent past. It will do so not only by studying legal norms (the ‘hard’ component of rights), but also – in Weberian fashion – by examining the power resources that are at least potentially conferred on citizens as rights holders. Here, we distinguish at least three distinct types of power resources which back the actual exercise of any right:
Within the multi-level governance structure of the EU, these resources are also developed at various levels. This makes, in effect, rights themselves become multi-level concepts, with some resources supporting social rights being located at EU level, and others at national and local levels.
Building on this resource-based multi-level concept of social rights, EuSocialCit‘s analysis of how European citizens have been exercising their social rights thus comprises an examination of the role played by all three types of resources at the EU, national and local levels. Only in this way, the project claims, can we get to a complete picture of the extent to which social rights are indeed comprehensively available to EU citizens and, also, get to understand the (potential) role of the EPSR and how it can be complemented by the provision of other resources at the national and local levels.
EuSocialCit is both an academic and policy-oriented research project. Alongside a work package on management (WP1) and on dissemination and communication (WP7), it is composed out of five substantive work packages (WPs 2-6). Each of these five work packages has its own objectives, methods and analytic framework, and produce their own – yet correlated – outcomes that each speak to different target groups.