Commodification of public services through the EU’s New Economic Governance regime - EU policy interventions in the water and transport sector in Germany, Italy, Ireland and Romania
University College Dublin, Ireland
In response to the financial and sovereign debt crisis, the EU adopted a New Economic Governance regime (NEG), that is centred around the European Semester process. The NEG moved beyond immediate crisis management by subjecting each member state's economic and social policies to a yearly cycle of surveillance, prevention and correction measures. Apart from addressing fiscal and macroeconomic imbalances, the NEG was brought to life with the ambition to implement structural reforms in those economic sectors of member states that have been dominated by public ownership. This paper analyses the impact of the NEG regime on public transport and water provision, two network industries that have been characterized by the long-standing tension between EU internal market rules on the one hand and public service obligations on the other. Focusing on Country-Specific Recommendations, our paper offers an in-depth contextualized analysis of NEG prescriptions in the two sectors in Germany, Ireland, Italy and Romania between 2011 and 2019. The results of this comparative analysis suggest that there is a joint commodification and liberalization theme across the two sectors and four member states, even though the level of detail and the legal weight of the prescriptions differ from country to country and over time. Our contextualised analysis also identifies contradictions in the NEG regime that open political opportunities for trade unions and social movements to mobilize against the commodification measures in the two sectors.
Explaining the unequal success of European Citizens’ Initiatives: The “Right2Water” and the “Fair Transport” campaigns
University College Dublin, Ireland
The Lisbon Treaty introduced a new instrument of European direct democracy, namely, the European Citizens Initiative (ECI), which can potentially serve as a new tool in the hands of European trade union federations to, inter alia, influence EU institutions and policy-making, provided the ECI is endorsed by at least one million EU citizens. To date, two European trade union federations have launched ECI campaigns, which seek to politicise and resist commodification in the network industries. On account of organised labour occupying a strong structural position (Silver, 2003) in both industries, a similar outcome might have been expected. This, however, is not the case. Whereas the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) launched a successful Right2Water ECI, the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) initiated a Fair Transport ECI; but failed to meet the quorum. These two ECI cases present an interesting puzzle and indicate that mobilisations of users and producers of public services do not always converge. The paper therefore aims to uncover the conditions that explain the different outcomes in the two cases. Here, we challenge the supposition that transnational labour alliances are ‘first and foremost about their immediate outcomes for workers’ (Brookes, 2019) and instead point to the interplay between actor-centred factors and structural factors as an explanandum.
Age Discrimination And Blockchain Technology In The Financial Sector
Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom
With blockchain technology, an insurance company could create an operational system through which many claims can be verified and handled almost instantly, without paperwork, and applications and renewals can be approved almost as quickly. However, the issue of regulatory governance and its uncertainty is perhaps the greatest concern to financial services leaders. The European Union is evaluating advantages and disadvantages deriving from the new tools related to the collaborative internet, such as big/opendata and crypto currency. A recent report to the European Union made recommendations on how to better develop blockchain technology, including the introduction of interoperability and scalability standards. The report advises policy makers and industry players to cooperate in improving and developing blockchain technology and its governance. But it also recommends that the EU takes a wait-and-see approach and provides projects with the time to experiment and learn, prior to the creation of standards or governance-related regulations. Thus, this contribution observes the potential implications of blockchain within the financial sector and develops a theoretical framework to map the actors, outputs and impacts deriving from the blockchain system to then ask if the progress of technology without adequate legal framework might jeopardize even more the position of older people in the society. As the financial providers are particularly keen to demonstrate how blockchain can be used to increase efficiency and reduce costs for the benefit of all consumers the question is if it might ultimately stress chronological age as a factor of risk. While a possible gateway to this problem could be a regulatory framework based on the EU legal principle of proportionality, it is aknoledged that too strict and arbitrary guidelines on competitiveness among financial providers might have a negative impact on the market. For these reasons, this contribution compares Europe and U.S.A. with a focus on the implementation of the principle of proportionality on age discrimination and the possible discriminatory effects linked to the blockchain technology. Precisely, this study aims to shed a light on the reasons behind the lack of enforceable legislation on age discrimination in financial services in these two geographical contexts, and its possible long-term effects on the economy.
Universal Basic Income as a tool against minority marginalisation
1European Centre for Minority Issues, Flensburg/Germany; 2Interdisciplinary Centre for European Studies, Europa-University Flensburg, Germany
Minority communities and their individual members, in Europe as elsewhere, often face social and economic marginalisation that has perpetuated through generations, as demonstrated by the monitoring cycles of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Targeted policies to address these patterns of exclusion and marginalisation can have a limited effect but are often accompanied by an increase in stigmatisation and the creation of welfare traps. In this presentation, we seek to evaluate the potential of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a tool (1) to break such reoccurring marginalisation and exclusion in Europe (and especially the EU) and (2) to implement social justice by empowering minorities on the community and individual level. We explore UBI’s estimated effects under four pertinent thematic criteria: the ability to live in one’s homeland, the ability to learn in one’s mother tongue, the preservation and development of specific cultural practices, and the promotion of social and political equality. We argue that if certain criteria are met UBI may affect marginalised minorities positively, facilitate individual and collective freedom of choice and self-determination, and thus lessen historic exclusion. The most important criterion – besides unconditionality and universality – is the amount set for a UBI, for it may prove insufficient as a tool for social justice if it doesn’t go beyond the contextually defined threshold of covering basic needs. This sufficientarian line is defended against received proposals for setting and financing UBI within the EU.