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Still the sound of silence? Towards a new phase in the Europeanisation of welfare state policies in France

Abstract : To what extent have the recent re-enforcement of the EU budgetary competences lead to a stronger capacity of the EU to prescribe welfare state reforms in France? To answer this question, we compare the situation before and after the regulatory changes at the EU level. We first analyse long-term trends in French welfare reform since the early 1990s until 2009. We underline a strong consistency between EU recommendations and French reforms, despite an absence of explicit reference to EU guidelines when French politicians are presenting the reforms. Governments were afraid that referring to Europe would reinforce opposition to already unpopular welfare reforms. Second, we focus on the reforms adopted when France has been subjected to Excessive Deficit Procedure (in 2009 and since 2013). French authorities have (re)-discovered that the EU has gained two means of pressure: first, the need for deficit reduction is now explicitly integrated into French political discourses and policies (thus having a strong impact on control over social spending) and, second, the EU is able to demand evidence of reform. Finally, we show that France has maintained some flexibility on the timing and content of the reforms. Because, on the one side, welfare state reforms need to be negotiated domestically and, on the other side, of growing market concern about public debt, it remains difficult to claim that Brussels is the main driver of welfare state reform
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Patrick Hassenteufel, Bruno Palier. Still the sound of silence? Towards a new phase in the Europeanisation of welfare state policies in France. Comparative European Politics, 2014, 13, pp.112-130. ⟨10.1057/cep.2014.44⟩. ⟨hal-01402935⟩



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