The Social Market Economy Goal of Article 3(3) TEU – A Task for EU Law?

18 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2016

Date Written: January 5, 2016


From the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty the EU has among its constitutional objectives the goal of achieving a highly competitive social market economy. At the same time, however, the EU has not been given any specific powers to actively develop its social policy. After six years of legal force of the Lisbon Treaty there is still no clarity on how should the EU interpret the legacy of German post-war Sozialmarktwirtschaft, whether it should strive for its own economic and social “Constitution”, whether it can try to fulfil the objective of social market economy through the instruments of EU law. The paper argues that some, rather partial, measures enacted by the EU legislator would be desirable and feasible without creating a danger of over-regulation that would threaten the freedoms of the internal market or distort the existing division of powers between the EU and the Member States in the social field. The social market economy concept, being itself a compromise between the free markets and social welfare requirements, can act there as a guarantee that neither unbounded market freedoms nor socializing policies would dominate the EU.

Keywords: European Union, Lisbon Treaty, Court of Justice, social market economy, social rights, social welfare, market freedoms

Suggested Citation

Šmejkal, Václav, The Social Market Economy Goal of Article 3(3) TEU – A Task for EU Law? (January 5, 2016). Charles University in Prague Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2015/III/1, Available at SSRN: or

Václav Šmejkal (Contact Author)

Charles University Law Faculty ( email )

Nam. Curieovych 7
Praha, 11640
Czech Republic

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