Social Europe

European Outlook 1. Annex to the State of the European Union 2004

Social Europe-European outlook 1
pdf, 552kB
Paul Dekker (SCP) Sjef Ederveen (CPB) Gerda Jehoel-Gijsbers (SCP) Ruud de Mooij (CPB)
Publication date
16 October 2003
International comparison, EU, social policy, welfare state,
Number of pages
  • There is broad support for the European Union (EU) in the Netherlands: 73% of Dutch believe that EU membership is a 'good thing'. The figure in Germany is 59%, in France it is 50% and in the United Kingdom 30%. By contrast, engagement with Europe is very low in the Netherlands. In late 2002 fewer than one in three Dutch people felt any attachment to Europe.
  • When it comes to international issues and major problems, a large majority of EU citizens are in favour of a common European policy. However, they prefer responsibility for health care, education and social security to remain with national governments.
  • There is no such thing as a European welfare state. However, there are similarities within certain groups of countries in terms of the way they have set up their welfare state. The different types of welfare state are converging slightly in terms of their policies.
  • Social policies need not be detrimental to economic performance. Within the EU, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries have been particularly successful in combining relatively equal income distribution with a high labour market participation rate and good economic performance. This is striking, given the fact that in terms of individual government interventions in the labour market (protection from redundancy, income tax) there is often a negative association between social and economic performance. An extensive social security system, a progressive income tax system and a high degree of job protection, for example, while being good for social cohesion, reduce the incentive for people to work.
  • The 'open coordination' method, whereby common targets are set but countries are free to convert them into policies as they see fit, is currently the only realistic option for the development of social policy in Europe. However, the EU should play a greater role in matters such as cross-border labour mobility.

These are some of the conclusion from Social Europe, produced jointly by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) and the Social and Cultural Planning Office at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This first survey, which will be published at the opening of the Dutch parliamentary year as an appendix to State of the European Union 2004, looks among other things at public opinion on European integration in the Netherlands and other EU member states. It also examines a number of aspects of the social dimension of European integration.