While complex and multifaceted, the integration of social policy at the European level should be regarded as a matter of core state powers due to its key implications in terms of distribution and politicization. This is likely to be increasingly so with discussions around, for instance, a possible European mechanism for tackling unemployment and, more generally, the social dimension of the Monetary Union. This piece deals with the role of Germany in the EU social policy realm since 1998 and focuses on legally binding social regulation (thus excluding soft law and coordination). While on a normalization course since the reunification, the role of Federal Republic in EU integration has raised many questions including its role as a “reluctant hegemon”. The paper hypothesizes that German decision makers have become increasingly reluctant towards social integration over the past 20 years. On the one hand, German positions have become more market oriented and less favourable to social regulation (H1). On the other, subsidiarity has become prominent in German stance towards the EU (H2). Using three different databases and a series of interviews with decision makers, the paper tries to elucidate whether the German government has been acting as a veto player, trying to block or oppose social regulation at EU level, or whether it has been acting as a shaper, trying to upload its own arrangements at European level.
Présentation en français, par Amandine Crespy, professeure à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles.