This highly original book constitutes one of the first attempts to examine the problem of distributive justice in the EU in a systematic manner. The author starts by arguing that the set of shared political institutions at EU level, including the European Parliament and the Court of Justice of the EU, generate democratic duties of redistribution amongst EU citizens. Furthermore, he claims that the economic structure of the EU, comprising a common market, a common currency, and a free-movement area, triggers duties of reciprocity amongst member states. He contends that the responsibilities to fulfil these duties should be shared by three levels of government – local, national, and supranational. More specifically, he argues that the EU should act as a safety net to the national welfare systems, applying the principle of subsidiarity. In turn, the common market and the Eurozone should balance efficiency targets with distributive concerns. Concrete policy proposals presented in this book include a threshold of basic goods for all EU citizens, an EU Labour Code, a minimum EU corporate tax rate, and an EU Fund for Global Competitiveness. These proposals are thoroughly examined from the standpoint of feasibility. The author argues that his proposals fit in the political culture of the member states, are economically feasible, can be translated into functioning institutions and policies, and are consistent with the limited degree of social solidarity in Europe. This book is a major contribution to the understanding of how a just Europe would look and what it takes to get us there.
This chapter introduces the problem of distributive justice in the EU. The author argues that three areas of tension in present-day EU require comprehensive examination: (1) a discrepancy between the degrees of political integration and social integration in the Union; (2) the existence of legal grounds for shared principles of justice, with a contrasting lack of mechanisms to provide and enforce them; and (3) the fact that, under the principle of non-discrimination, EU citizens are entitled to the same set of social rights, but only when they live in the same member state. He then introduces and problematizes the research questions: Does the political and economic configuration of the EU generate distributive duties amongst EU citizens and/or between member states? If so, what are these duties, and under what conditions do they apply? The author positions these questions within the fields of global justice and multilevel citizenship studies and he presents a strategy to tackle them.
This chapter addresses the question, does the duty of economic reciprocity apply to the EU? The author analysis three main features of the economic structure of the EU: the common market, the single currency, and freedom of movement. He contends that the patterns of economic specialization resulting from the combined effect of EU integration and globalization created a “distributive vicious circle”, which hinders worse-performing member states from improving their condition. He argues that the current design of the common market and the Eurozone are partially responsible for the practices of “social dumping” in the Union, as well as for the levels of indebtedness faced by a number of member states – despite the fact that poor policy choices also played a role. Accordingly, he claims that the burdens of integration should be fairly shared by all member states. In addition, he argues that free movement creates a number of social risks for mobile EU workers. Realizing the principle of non-discrimination implies making the opportunities of the common market accessible to all, which, in turn, requires a degree of redistribution. This chapter introduces a number of policy proposals, including a coordinated EU minimum wage, a minimum EU corporate tax rate, and an EU Fund for Global Competitiveness.
This chapter addresses the question, why should we redistribute? The author introduces two distributive duties: the democratic duty to redistribute and the duty of economic reciprocity. The democratic duty to redistribute consists of providing the means for political participation and resistance to power to all the members of a polity. In turn, the duty of economic reciprocity requires a fair distribution of the gains of economic exchange amongst all market participants. The author argues that each of these duties implies its own policy instruments. The democratic duty to redistribute is to be translated into a basket of basic goods, which includes (i) means of subsistence, (ii) healthcare, (iii) education, and (iv) resources for due process in court. In turn, the duty of economic reciprocity is to be realized mainly through labour regulation and economic and monetary policy. The geographical scope of application of these duties depends on whether the conditions which trigger them are met. These conditions are, in the former case, comprehensively institutionalized democratic and coercive institutions and, in the latter case, varying degrees of economic integration – national markets, free trade areas, and the global market.
This chapter addresses the question, does the democratic duty to redistribute apply to the EU? The author argues that, at the EU level, coercion and democracy are sufficiently institutionalized to activate the democratic duty to redistribute for two reasons. First, the EU has the capacity to generate generalized compliance of its members with its laws. This is achieved through a complex combination of domestic and supranational norms and institutions, from the stage of law enactment to that of law enforcement. The author claims that the fact that the EU does not possess a unified monopoly of force in the Weberian sense is not an ultimate obstacle, since its supranational institutions can rely on national courts and police forces to enforce EU law. Secondly, the EU is a demoicracy, with key democratic institutions, a citizenship status, and a plurality of demoi. According to the author, responsibilities to realize democratic redistribution in the Union should be shared by the three levels of government – local, national, and supranational – by relying on the familiar principles of proportionality and subsidiarity. This means that the EU should act as a safety net for domestic social citizenship, supplementing national welfare systems whenever they fail to meet the requirements of the democratic duty to redistribute.
This chapter addresses the question, what should a feasibility test for the proposals presented in the previous chapters look like? The author begins by distinguishing “temporary” from “pervasive” feasibility. Temporary unfeasibility results from circumstances that can arguably be overcome, such as the preferences of voters at a specific moment of time. In opposition, pervasive unfeasibility is linked to barriers that human agency cannot reasonably be expected to overcome, such as the efficiency costs associated with certain policy proposals. The author contends that the debate amongst political theorists should focus on pervasive feasibility, leaving temporary feasibility for political strategists. Furthermore, he claims that a test on pervasive unfeasibility should refer to a particular paradigm of social order – what he dubs “constrained” feasibility tests. He presents four criteria for assessing the feasibility status of a liberal democratic theory of distributive justice: (1) fitting the political culture of a given community, at least to a certain degree; (2) being economically sustainable; (3) being translatable into functioning policies and institutions; and (4) being consistent with the degree of social solidarity amongst the individuals who are to be bound by the proposed policies. The author argues that to be feasible, an account of distributive justice has to meet each of these four criteria.
This chapter addresses the question, is distributive justice in the EU a feasible project? The author claims that the policy proposals presented in the previous chapters are feasible in the long run if a number of requirements are met. First, any scheme of distributive justice at the EU level has to be compatible with a plurality of welfare regimes in the Union. The EU threshold of basic goods is consistent with this requirement insofar as it draws on an existing “overlapping consensus” regarding primary goods and it does not imply the harmonization of social policies. Secondly, any feasible EU scheme has to imply a relatively small amount of inter-state transfers. This can be achieved through a focus on pre-distribution. Thirdly, an economically sustainable scheme needs to be financed through public policies which anticipate increasing social needs in times of crisis. The proposals of this book do so by prescribing the accumulation of public savings in times of prosperity. Fourthly, a new institutional framework is needed at the EU level to realize distributive justice. In addition to a change in the treaties conferring social policy competences to the EU, the author proposes the creation of an EU agency for social justice, with the task of dealing with the main budgetary and operational challenges of distributive justice.
This chapter recovers the three tensions and the research questions presented in the Introduction and explains how they have been addressed. The author argues that his proposals tackle each of the tensions effectively. First, once a suitable set of pre-distributive and redistributive instruments have been launched, the level of social integration will be consistent with the comprehensive set of shared political and economic institutions. Secondly, if the institutional reforms presented in this book are put into practice, social rights will become enforceable at the EU level, with an unambiguous legal basis in the treaties and a special agency responsible for their fulfilment. Thirdly, insofar as the threshold of basic goods applies to all EU citizens, regardless of their country of origin and residence, it fully realizes the ideal of non-discrimination, applied to social goods. These institutional reforms would increase social cohesion and political stability in the Union. They would also have a major impact in the way we think of the EU.