According to the latest Eurobarometer, 45% of Europeans are afraid of unemployment, compared to 24% who fear insecurity and crimes. It is a fact that unemployment levels are too high in most of the EU-countries. The stagnating economies and opening of labour markets to competition are perceived as a threat - whether it can be theoretically justified or not. Why then, do the leaders of Europe still prefer to concentrate on strengthening the HJA-dimension of EU rather than start talking about the need for social policy dimension to EU?
The Constitution was the ill-starred victim of member states vilifying attacks on EU for decades. How should the citizens know who to blame for unemployment, since the institutional and decision-making structure is an incomprehensible entity, politicians are deliberately misleading people by blaming EU for all the misery they actually have produced. The other factor for turning down the Constitution shouldn’t either be overlooked. 56% of the French and 54% of the Dutch were for “a Constitution”. Thus, they chose to turn this Constitution down, because the first time, when their opinion was asked about the direction of EU integration, they could say that they wanted less weight to be put on free movement of capital and goods, and more social rights, and jobs, i.e. “positive” freedom aspects of EU rather than just “negative” freedom. Actions at EU level, in the field social policy are the key to gaining the lost legitimacy of EU back from the citizens, and getting the missing support for Constitution and the whole European project.
Who came up with the idea of EU after all?
“Economic interdependence and the diminished capacity of the nation-state to provide security and prosperity created the necessity of international, transnational or supranational cooperation. Integration helped safeguarding national allegiance by securing that the wide middle classes, labour and agricultural producers stay silent. The inclusion and (incomes) protection of the agricultural sector, namely CAP, was equally viewed as necessary for allegiance as this sector had proved especially susceptible to non-democratic and extremist political pull.” (Kees van Kersbergen)
According to many theorists, EU is just an extension of politics run by national governments. EU-level policies we’re created to buy those social classes’ silence, which we’re especially prone to endanger the social consensus, peace and order. CAP is a school-book example of these dynamics and its prominence and the share in the EU budget is a remnant from this path-dependency. Pooling the subsidies system was the only way for nation states to preserve social peace and curb unemployment which is well known to boost extremist forces. This is one of the reasons for Member States convulsively grasp to CAP as it stands today. The political, financial and social costs of scrapping it are so big, that governments prefer to keep outdated production structures alive with artificial respiration. One of the biggest challenges ahead is the reform of CAP. The Finnish EU-presidency has the so called "CAP reform" on the agenda, but because of unanimous decision-making, extremely high political price to pay back at home and high social costs, fundamental reform is still far away.
Why have social policies remained in the competence of nation states and who has reaped the benefits?
“National allegiance is and remains the primary source of the political power of the elite that drives the integration process. This dependency relation explains why most social policies have remained the exclusive competence of national authority, why social policy is such a contested political domain in the European Union.“ (Kees van Kersbergen)
When national leaders realised the inevitable necessity for co-operation in the social security sphere, they chose a cunning strategy. To keep their dignity and impression of sovereignty on one of the most critical policy spheres, they introduced the open method of coordination (OMC). Considered de jure, OMC is not a binding legislative process, but produces as much harmonisation and convergence in social policies as stringent legislative processes would have resulted. The outcome is the same, except democratic scrutiny is missing. This is an ideal solution for nation states - on paper they keep on mastering their vital source of the national allegiance whilst gain from the added value created by co-operation and coordination of social policies. No surprise that member states are harvesting the fruits, and let the heads "in EU" roll when things go wrong. No wonder that citizens are lost and feel they are not heard when they don’t know how to point their finger at. Half of the Europeans estimate that EU is democratic, majority of these citizens from the new member states. Still only one third of the citizens think that their voice matters at all when decisions are taken in the EU. Clearly, a new concept of democracy has to be introduced to make people feel that their opinions matter. The fairest way would be by making Commission a political government, accountable to parliament with two chambers with equal powers, abolish closed-door intergovernmentalism, not to forget strengthening the European parties and establishing channels and instruments for participatory and direct democracy.
People are asking for social policy actions by EU
As recent developments show, there are also harmful side-effects produced by market integration, such as social dumping, which the member states alone can not effectively address. EU is in need of truly “European regulations” on social security or health and safety issues. This would also ensure the proper functioning of the four freedom of movement, by preventing the member states from using national regulations to impair freedom of person, goods, services or capital. Division of tasks, combined to democratic EU-institutions also in social policies would produce better policy results, make clear to citizens’ who is doing what and who is responsible for the failures and successes. Functional division of competencies between EU-level and member states - also on social policies - is the key to more efficiency and solutions to problems that member states can not handle themselves. European Social policy does not have to mean centralised financing system, but social policies co-ordinated between member states, and social policy co-ordinated with economic and monetary policy. Governments swim against the stream by never mentioning the usefulness of community actions on social policies, even less on financing them with any kind of EU-level taxation. The naked truth nevertheless is that 62 % of people are supporting some level of social policy harmonisation in EU. 
Against generally held conviction and expectations, popularity of EU crashed after Maastricht Treaty and introduction of euro. Widely held belief was that common currency would enhance EU reputation but the result was totally contrary. Also the loud battle “fought” against unemployment by nation states (which in the end has mainly remained as lip-service) is a crucial factor in keeping the national allegiance to themselves. Unemployment is waste of resources, but has also proven to be a threat to political order and obedience. EU could now decide whether it should try to steal back the allegiance from the member states and try to gain some of those fruits that really belong to EU-level. If EU-institutions are to think strategically now, they should take use of the one of the most powerful instruments of creating allegiance - social policy. It has been used for almost hundred years in an effective manner to generate loyalty to nation state. It is the easiest solution for balancing EU’s wide-ranging market-liberalism and gaining back the support of masses to the “multi-speed interaction of economic and political integration”, which sometimes is crudely dubbed solely as "a peace project" in the context of the two World Wars.
Social policy - the easiest solution for balancing EU’s wide-ranging market-liberalism and gaining back the support of masses to the “multi-speed interaction of economic and political integration”?!
CAP-example vividly shows that EU was created for maintaining social peace. The goal was not only to deter traditional war but to prevent social unrest. Peace means different thing to the generations grown up on the globalised era. For our generation Peace is not the absence of War. When for instance concept of “human security” covers wide selection of factors, the initial concept behind EU - peace - could also be understood in a wider sense. If EU is to be a “Grand Peace Project”, it should try to ensure peace between social classes and generations, the winners and losers of the sometimes ruthless competition of job security and decent living.
Federal solution to winning back the lost legitimacy of political integration
Given the logic of market integration and the growing interdependence between different policy spheres which have driven the Europeanization of policy-making, co-operation of social policies is inevitably going to be strengthened. What remains to be chosen, is whether people can have democratic control over these policies by creating a federal system, or if the governments keep on using OMC and soft governance instruments. By choosing the strategy of lacking accountability and missing democracy, the widely feared “Brussels’ creeping centralisation” is really taking over. Result from this will be ever more Euroscepticism and eroding legitimacy of EU. Since many people make the simple calculation of liberal market economy cherished by Brussels "equals to job losses, equals to the loss of sustainable livelihood” the vicious circle is there. As the fear of job losses grow among middle classes, the main base of support to European integration will be lost. Those social classes, that are not harvesting benefits from “four freedoms” to the extent of those belonging to the mobile Euro-elite, need tangible examples to realise the usefulness of the EU-integration project. EU has provably become a failed “social peace project.
National governments have been very effective in caricaturing EU as centralised evil when needed in order to claim all progress to themselves that is maybe gained because of EU-level actions.
Strict division of labour between market integration and social and welfare policies is artificial. Market-making and market-correcting regulations have to be in unison after interdependence is growing between these policy spheres. Despite this fact, liberal market policies and monetary policy are made at the European level when economic, welfare and social policy related decisions are mainly left to the member states. This formula of division of tasks was rejected by people in the form of the proposed Constitution. More than two thirds of EU-citizens want harmonisation of social welfare systems, especially younger citizens in the 10 new member states and Greece. Member states are confronting a double-edged sword. Because they would be loosing their most fundamental source of creating political support, national sentiments and allegiance, they still haven’t responded to the expressed wish of citizens to have a “Social Europe”. The starting point would be to take the challenge of starting to define what Social Europe actually means. As negative side-effects of globalisation and stronger lobbying power of capital is eroding the preconditions of member states to be able to run successful social policies, citizens’ allegiance to EU has crashed down along the national failures in mastering their social policies.
National governments have been very effective in caricaturing EU as centralised evil when needed in order to further their own nationalistic ambitions and claim all progress to themselves that is maybe gained because of EU-level actions. Filling in some of the power vacuum left by member states in social policy area, EU could be granted considerable amount of legitimacy.
EU is not legitimate in the eyes of people because the agenda and priorities of the EU-elite and average citizen are light-years away from each other. Why does the EU to-do-list start with fighting terrorists, gathering military forces and creating control mechanisms, rather than concentrating on employment, the number one threat for you and me? If EU was a democratic federation with functioning feed-in channel for citizens’ opinions, the agenda would surely look different. It is high time that citizens become the agenda-setters. For JEFers, the solution to make the interests of European citizens’, “Brussels’ ” and national governments to match, is to create a democratic federation, where effective political scrutiny and influence by people is enabled. Maybe the Social Europe also becomes reality after that.