From Horizontal Market Integration to Vertical Integration Effected through the Direct Surveillance of Member States. Labour Movements and the EU’s New Economic Governance Regime

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:20
Oral Presentation
Roland ERNE, University College Dublin, Ireland
Sabina STAN, Dublin City University, Ireland
This paper focusses on labour and the European integration process, namely on the way in which established European trade unions and new social movements respond to the EU’s new economic governance regime. Until very recently, European labour politics has been shaped mainly by EU ‘horizontal’ market integration through the free movement of goods, capital, services and people. Since the Euro crisis however, the latter has been complemented by ‘vertical’ hierarchical integration effected through the direct surveillance of member states’ macroeconomic policies, including industrial relations and social policy. The resulting new EU economic governance regime (NEG) opens contradictory possibilities for labour movements and politics in Europe. On the one hand, the NEG’s reliance on vertical surveillance makes decisions taken in its name more tangible, thereby offering concrete targets for contentious transnational collective action. On the other hand, the NEG mimics the governance structures of multinational corporations. By using performance indicators and coercive comparisons that put countries in competition with one another, it therefore implicitly constitutes a deterrent to transnational collective action. Moreover, the interventionist strains and competitive pressures associated with NEG increase the threat of nationalist counter-movements. This is undermining the structuring of the political space along transnational cleavages, namely, the class cleavage. This paper therefore tries to contribute to a better understanding about the interrelation between NEG and existing ‘horizontal’ EU economic governance and the shifts in labour politics triggered by NEG. This is important beyond the particular European case, as the trend to ever more interventionist vertical governance structures can also be detected in other transnational “free trade” regimes.