ASTK15715U COURSE: EU social policies and the welfare states

Volume 2017/2018

Valgfag - SRM IV

Bachelorlevel: 20 ECTS

Masterlevel: 15 ECTS


The course will examine European Union social policy integration and its impact on the national welfare states. Thus it is important to note that the course will both engage with the dynamics and isntitutions of European integration at the supranational level as well as responses and impact at the national level. A broad definition of social policy will be taken, including healthcare and labour market policies. We will take a historical and contemporary view on how and through which dynamics an EU social policy has evolved and which impact it has had on national policies and welfare state reforms. The dynamics of European social integration will be analysed theoretically, using and contrasting neo-functionalism, liberal intergovernmentalism, institutionalism and post-functionalist theories as well as theories on judicial integration. But equal weight will be given to the empirical study of dynamics and content of an EU social policy. To what extent has integration been driven forward by the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union, in the absence or incapacity of politics? EU social policy has long been held to be a process left to courts and markets, but this course will bring in the role of politics, interests and the EU legislators, i.e. the European Council and the European Parliament in the gradual development of the policy domain. Politicisation appears to play an increasing role, not least upto and after Brexit. In the examination of impact on the welfare states, a comparative approach will be taken in order to understand and explain why adaptation to and impact of EU integration differ between member states, across policies and eventually time. 


The course will provide theoretical and analytical insights into a wide range of welfare policy integration and Europeanisation themes such as: cross border healthcare in the European Union, occupational health and safety, interaction between EU internal market principles and national labour market regulation, EU austerity measures and their impact on national welfare reforms, free movement and cross border welfare, currently politicisised as ‘welfare tourism’. The political and legal development and impact of these policy areas are analysed and discussed, their differentiated form, politicisation and the extent to which they are implemented and complied with. What is the current status of social Europe? What about the nexus between free movement and the welfare state – currently much contested and a main theme in the UK EU referendum? (see LSE blog here). Are inclusive welfare states unsustainable in an EU with free movement as constitutive principles? The clashes between the traditional boundedness of welfare and the logics of European integration are many and will be analysed in this course from different theoretical and empirical angles.       

Learning Outcome

The objective of the course is to become familiar with a broad range of issues concerning EU social integration and its impact. The course aims to make the students engage in the theoretical and empirical discussions of the scope, limits and impact of an EU social policy – also in its most current setting. The course aims to provide its students with analytical capacities to undertake complex studies of interaction between the EU and national level of regulation, decision-making and implementation.


In particular students can expect to:

  • Become familiar with multi-level decision-making in EU welfare policy regulation
  • Enhance their theoretical and analytical toolbox of understanding and researching inter and intra-institutional dynamics between the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Council and the European Parliament in adopting EU social policies
  • Enhance their theoretical and analytical toolbox of understanding and researching politicisation, implementation and impact of these policies on the national level
  • Enhance their theoretical and analytical toolbox of understanding and researching welfare Europeanisation, compliance with and enforcement of EU welfare regulation. 

Preliminary reading list

Anderson, K. (2015) Social Policy in the European Union, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Arts, W. and Gelissen, J. (2002) 'Three worlds of welfare capitalism or more? A state-of-the-art report'. Journal of European social policy 12(2):137-58.

Baeten, R. and Vanhercke, B. (2016) 'Inside the black box: the EU’s economic surveillance of national healthcare systems'. Comparative European Politics.

Caporaso, J.A. and Tarrow, S. (2009) 'Polanyi in Brussels: Supranational Institutions and the Transnational Embedding of Markets'. International Organization 63(04):593-620.

Conant, L.J. (2002) Justice Contained, Law and Politics in the European Union, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

De la Porte, C. and Heins, E. (2015) 'A new era of European Integration; Governance of labour market and social policy since the sovereign debt crisis'. Comparative European Politics 13(1):8-28.

De la Porte, C. and Natali, D. (2014) 'Altered Europeanization of Pension Reform in the Context of Great Recession: Denmark and Italy Compared', in: West European Politics, pp. 732-49.

De Wilde, P. (2011) 'No polity for old politics? A framework for analyzing the politicization of European integration'. Journal of European Integration 33(5):559-75.

De Wilde, P., Leupold, A., and Schmidtke, H. (2016) 'Introduction: the differentiated politicisation of European governance'. West European Politics 39(1):3-22.

Dougan, M. (2013) 'The Bubble that Burst: Exploring the Legitimacy of the Case Law on the Free Movement of Union Citizens'. Judging Europes’s Judges. The Legitimacy of the Case Law of the European Court of Justice, Oxford: Hart:132.

Falkner, G., Treib, O., Hartlapp, M., and Leiber, S. (2005) 'Complying with Europe. EU Harmonisation and Soft Law in the Member States', in. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ferrera, M. (2005) The boundaries of welfare: European integration and the new spatial politics of social protection, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hemerijck, A. (2013) Changing Welfare States, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Höpner, M. and Schäfer, A. (2012) 'Embeddedness and Regional Integration: Waiting for Polanyi in a Hayekian Setting'. International Organization 66(03):429-55.

Leibfried, S. (2010) 'Social Policy: Left to the Judges and the Markets?', in H.S. Wallace, W. Wallace, M.A. Pollack, H. Wallace and A.R. Young (eds.), Policy-Making in the European Union. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 253-83.

Martinsen, D.S. (2005) 'The Europeanization of Welfare ‐ The Domestic Impact of Intra‐European Social Security'. Journal of Common Market Studies 43(5):1027-54.

Martinsen, D.S. (2015) An Ever More Powerful Court? The Political Constraints of Legal Integration in the European Union, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Martinsen, D.S. and Mayoral Diaz-Asensio, J. (2016) 'A Judicialisation of Healthcare Policies in Denmark and Spain?  The Universalist Healthcare Model Meets the European Union '. Comparative European Politics.

Martinsen, D.S. and Vollaard, H. (2014) 'Implementing Social Europe in Times of Crises: Re-established Boundaries of Welfare?'. West European Politics 37(4):677-92.

Pavolini, E., León, M., Guillén, A.M., and Ascoli, U. (2015) 'From austerity to permanent strain? The EU and welfare state reform in Italy and Spain'. Comparative European Politics 13(1):56-76.

Ruhs, M. (2015) 'Is Unrestricted Immigration Compatible with Inclusive Welfare States? The (Un) Sustainability of EU Exceptionalism'. The (Un) Sustainability of EU Exceptionalism (June 24, 2015).

Scharpf, F.W. (2002) 'The European Social Model: Coping with the Challenges of Diversity'. Journal of Common Market Studies 40(4):645-70.

Scharpf, F.W. (2010) 'The Asymmetry of European Integration, or Why the EU Cannot Be a ‘ Social Market Economy’'. Socio-Economic Review 8(2):211-50.

Smismans, S. (2008) 'New modes of governance and the participatory myth'. West European Politics 31(5):874-95.

Theodoropoulou, S. (2015) 'National social and labour market policy reforms in the shadow of EU bail-out conditionality: The cases of Greece and Portugal'. Comparative European Politics 13(1):29-55.

Both full degree and exchange students - who have a basic knowledge and interest in the European Union and the study hereof - are most welcome.
The course will be conducted through a mix of lectures and discussion, with an emphasis on the latter. Students are expected to contribute significantly to these discussions based on regular attendance and prior reading of all class assignments.
Regular attendance and engagement is expected.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Total
  • 56
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Final assesment will be an oral synopsis exam.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner