What future for the European social model? The relevance of early intellectual concepts of social integration

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The classic account of European social integration starts with the near-exclusion of European social policy from the European Economic Community Treaty (1957). The final version of the Treaty reflected a consensus which relied on market forces for growth and wealth creation while social policy largely remained the preserve of the Member States. Although the EU’s social policy competence has considerably widened since 1957 – under the umbrella of a European Social Model – there remains an asymmetry between European social and market integration. Tensions have become evident as economic (and monetary) integration has progressed, social diversity across the Member States has increased, and national welfare states have begun to be dismantled, leading to questions about the future role, shape and form of social Europe. This article draws on archival material and literature on the history of European integration to (re)introduce EU labour lawyers to the intellectual concepts of social integration developed during the interbellum (1918-1939) by Aristide Briand (at the time French Minister for Foreign Affairs) and Albert Thomas (Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)). The article revisits the classic account of European social integration and asks to what extent these early texts have any relevance for contemporary EU labour lawyers thinking about the future of social Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-369
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of International and Comparative Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2020


  • European social model
  • Aristide Briand
  • Albert Thomas
  • history of European integration

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