The European Project: Neither Neo-Liberal, Nor Socialist - A Reply to Andy Storey
Irish Review, 2007
23 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2007 Last revised: 27 Nov 2007
Notwithstanding the fact that EU Member States continue to proclaim their attachment to the 'European social model', left-leaning critics keep arguing that the process of European integration is inherently 'neo-liberal'. Such claims are certainly surprising in so far as the very idea of a common market in Europe demands free movement and free competition. And indeed, since its origins, the aim of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community has been to eliminate all obstacles to intra-community trade in order to merge national markets into a single market, with the hope of maximizing consumer welfare and ensuring the most efficient use of our resources. To denounce the inherent neo-liberal nature of European integration does not do justice to the values and objectives upon which the EU is founded and the numerous public policies that illustrate its social dimension. In the end, it must always be remembered that it is for the Member States to decide whether or not they want to grant the EU more powers in the social field. This could represent a positive evolution but unsurprisingly, most, if not all the Member States are very reluctant to transfer any of their welfare-state functions. Accordingly, and this is the core of our argument, the EU has a more dominant 'economic' dimension mostly because the Member States - and a clear majority of their citizens - predominantly want the EU to remain an economic entity with limited powers. Yet, the fulfilment of these economic tasks can hardly be identified with the pursuit of a 'neo-liberal' agenda. This charge fails to do justice to past and current efforts to balance the economic and social dimensions of European integration. It further illustrates a profound misunderstanding of the limited mandate of the EU.
Keywords: European Union, Neo-liberalism, Competition Law
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