At two important events, leaders of the EU and its member states will discuss the European model, focusing on whether successful models such as the Nordic one can be transferred to countries in distress.
There is widespread agreement that there is no such thing as one European social model, but rather a variety of models with some common features. As some of those models are evidently doing better than others in dealing with unemployment, poverty and the financing of healthcare, the question arises as to what lessons can be learnt from those more successful models.
The recent study “Globalisation and the reform of the European social models” prepared by André Sapir for the think-tank Bruegel and presented at the ECOFIN Informal Meeting in Manchester on 9 September 2005 argued that there is not one European social model, but rather four – the Nordic, Anglo-Saxon, Mediterranean and the Continental.
• The Nordic model (welfare state, high level of social protection, high level of taxation, extensive intervention in the labour market, mostly in the form of job-seeking incentives)
• The Anglo-Saxon system (more limited collective provision of social protection merely to cushion the impact of events that would lead to poverty)
• The continental model (provision of social assistance through public insurance-based systems; limited role of the market in the provision of social assistance)
• The Mediterranean social welfare system (high legal employment protection; lower levels of unemployment benefits; spending concentrated on pensions)
It has been argued that the social models of the EU-10, though transitory, must be added to this schema. Controversially, the Sapir study concludes that only the Nordic and the Anglo-Saxon models are sustainable.
The Assembly of European Regions’ Committee on Social Cohesion, Social Policy and Public Health has provided a set of common denominators which, in their entirety, define the European social model as “a set of principles and values, common to all European regions”, and it has declared these principles to be:
b. Social Justice
c. Social Cohesion
d. Equal access to employment, in particular for the young and the disabled
e. Gender equality
f. Equal access to health and social protection
g. Universal access to education
h. Universal access to health and social services
i. Equal opportunities for everybody in society, in particular the elderly, the young, the disabled, the socially excluded and minority groups
j. Universal access to, development of and implementation of knowledge in health and social services.