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Social Policy in the European Union: State of Play 2015

To mark the 16th edition of their flagship publication, the European Social Observatory and the European Trade Union Institute organise an interactive conference-debate at the European Economic and Social Committee (Brussels) on 23rd September 2015 (2.30 - 5.30 pm).

  OSE/ETUI Lunchtime Session

The New Politics of Inequality in Europe

During this Lunchtime Session on 3rd September 2015, Lord Stewart Wood (Emeritus Fellow in Politics, Oxford University) and Dr Lorenza Antonucci (University of the West of Scotland) will engage in a dialogue with the audience about the political dimensions of inequality in Europe. 

  Board of Directors 

We are thrilled to welcome Annemie Pernot to the OSE’s Board of Directors. 

Ms. Pernot is a former Social Attaché to the Permanent Representation of Belgium to the European Union and Chairwoman of the Belgian Commission on Women's Labour.

  OSE Activity Report 

OSE Activity Report published

The OSE's Activity Report for 2014 is out now. See what the team has accomplished in the past year and how those accomplishments have been received by trade unions, NGOs, EU institutions, and other scholars. New additions to the team, new research projects, new publications, and new developments in the OSE will all be reviewed in brief.


  OSE Paper Series

What Policy Innovation for Youth in the Era of Prolonged Austerity? 
The Case of Greece
Petmesidou, M. and Polyzoidis, P. (2015)
OSE Paper Series, Research Paper No.20, july 2015, 38p.
This OSE Research Paper evaluates the bleak youth employment situation in Greece after the bailout-instigated reforms. The effectiveness of programmes like The Youth Guarantee are analyzed and judged in the context of their ability to positively affect the employment situation.

  ESPN Publications

We are delighted to announce a  range of publications (EN/FR) on Social Investment which have been produced in the context of the European Social Policy Network. They can be downloaded from the ESPN project page.

  BBC World Service Interview

"Young, Jobless and European"
OSE Director Bart Vanhercke was interviewed by Tanya Beckett on BBC World Service (Business Daily) regarding the social legacy of the financial crisis, Europe's blind austerity, and the need for a binding EU framework on minimum income protection.


  OSE Paper Series

Politique et droit de l’Union Européenne: développements ayant un impact sur la politique nationale des soins de santé
Baeten, R. and Ghailani, D. (2015)
The EU’s influence on national health systems remains largely the result of legislation and policies in other policy domains; in particular, the EU coordination of macro-economic policies and the internal market. This OSE briefing paper, written at the request of the NIHDI, analyses the recent developments in this domain and explores to what extent an EU agenda on reforming health systems is emerging. Furthermore, it provides an overview of the recent case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union that might impact health systems.


Available in French and Dutch)

  New publication

The impact of the crisis on fundamental rights across Member States of the EU. Country Report on Belgium
Ghailani, D. with Vanhercke, B. (2015)
Study for the LIBE Committee, European Parliament

Respect for human rights is a universal value embedded in the European Union Treaties. However, the economic crisis has forced Member States to introduce structural reforms, cutting public expenditure and availability of social benefits. In this context, the European Parliament commissioned an assessment of the impact of the crisis on fundamental rights across seven Member States with a focus on the right to work, right to healthcare, right to a pension, and right to education.


  ETUI Report / Policy Brief

Healthcare reforms and the crisis
Stamati, F. and Baeten, R. (2014) 
In the wake of the financial crisis, widespread cost-reducing healthcare reforms have been enacted in Europe at national level subject to varying degrees of pressure from the EU. In countries hardest hit by the crisis, these reforms have had detrimental effects on access to care. On this issue the ETUI published a report and a policy brief. The policy brief identifies the need for a more consistent healthcare agenda on the part of the EU. The full research report provides an in-depth assessment of the impact of the crisis on health care reform patterns in a selection of Member States.


Policy Brief

  OSE Paper Series

Economic crisis and austerity in Southern Europe: threat or opportunity for a sustainable welfare state?
Maria Petmesidou and Ana Guillén (2015)
Southern European countries have been hit hardest and longest by the post-2008 economic crisis, putting their welfare states under acute strain. This paper briefly reviews reform trends prior to and during the crisis, highlights convergent and divergent paths among four countries, and summarises the major findings with regard to pensions, family policy and healthcare.


(Full text)

  OSE scientific institution

Following a decision of the federal government, the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office has recognised the OSE as a ‘scientific institution’, thereby acknowledging the quality of its independent research.


  OSE Paper Series

The cost-effectiveness of pensions and the role of taxation: an emerging European debate 
Ghailani, D. and Natali, D. with Schavoir, M. (2014)

This OSE Research paper sheds light on three aspects that are key to the European debate on the taxation of pensions. Firstly it refers to the EU governance on economic and social policy and the way pension policy is framed within it. Secondly it looks at taxation, a theme that has attracted increased attention, especially in relation to social and pensions policy. It finally sheds light on recent and emerging issues, including the need for growth-friendly taxes in a context of economic stagnation, the launch of the Social Investment paradigm, and the issue of pension schemes for the liberal professions.


(Full text)

  New publication

Socializing the European Semester? Economic Governance and Social Policy Coordination in Europe 2020. 
Zeitlin, J. and Vanhercke B. (2014) 
Report prepared for the Swedish Institute of European Studies (SIEPS)

The European Semester of policy coordination, introduced since the beginning of the Euro crisis, has prompted questions about the nature and dynamics of the EU’s emerging socio-economic governance architecture. This report argues that since 2011, there has been a partial but progressive ‘socialization’ of the European Semester.

(Full text)

  OSE Paper Series

Comparing (Voluntary) Occupational Welfare in the EU: Evidence from an international research study
Natali, D. and Pavolini, E. (2014)

Based on the results of the project ‘Providing Welfare through Social Dialogue: A renewed role for social partners?’, this paper sheds light on the evolution of occupational benefits and services voluntarily provided by social partners (voluntary occupational welfare). Such programmes, which are becoming relatively more widespread in the EU, are a 'double-edged sword': they offer possibilities for improving workers’ conditions and life; at the same time they may weaken the welfare state.


(Full text)

  New project

Establishment and management of the European Social Policy Network
The consortium made up of Applica, CEPS/INSTEAD and the OSE has been awarded the contract to establish and manage the new European Social Policy Network (ESPN). The ESPN will provide high quality and timely independent information, advice, analysis and expertise in monitoring progress towards the EU’s social goals.



  New publication

About the baby and the bathwater: assessing the European Platform against Poverty
Sabato, S. and Vanhercke, B. (2014)
This ETUI Working Paper provides a qualitative assessment of one of Europe 2020's flagship initiatives: the 'European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion' (EPAP). The paper argues that a transformed EPAP has the potential to provide strong added value for the EU's toolbox in the fight against poverty. Rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater, the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy should be used as a window of opportunity to revamp this tool by addressing its weaknesses.


(and free

  OSE Paper Series

Putting the fight against poverty and social exclusion at the heart of the EU agenda: A contribution to the Mid-Term Review of the Europe 2020 Strategy
Frazer, H., Guio, A.-C., Marlier, E., Vanhercke, B. and Ward T. (2014)

This OSE Research paper urges major changes to the Europe 2020 Strategy if it is to meet the target of reducing poverty by 20 million by 2020. It examines the scale of the challenge as well as the underlying problems which need to be tackled and the measures which could be taken.


  The OSE in the news

The New European Commission: Assignment of the Employment and Social Affairs Portfolio to Marianne Thyssen. 
Bart Vanherke (Director, OSE) is interviewed by Africa Gordillo, on La Première, on radio RTBF, September 11, 2014.

(FR, MP3)

  OSE-ETUI Lunchtime Session 

Sur l'histoire de l'Europe et ses leçons pour le futur
The 17th of September, keynote speaker Robert Salais (IDHES - CNRS) will discuss of the origins of the European Union (marked by the failure of a political community) as well as the paths that could have been followed if Europe had not imprisoned itself in the market. 



  Neujobs Conference : 15/09/2014

Ageing Society in Europe and UK: Employment and Policy Challenges
This conference aims to bring together researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to discuss the consequences of ageing on employment, labour demand and supply, skills, working conditions, gender issues, and so forth. It is an opportunity for European scholars and national stakeholders to meet and debate key strategies for dealing with ageing. 

Venue: London School of Economics (LSE), London


(Documents, Registration...)


Social developments in the European Union 2013 – 1 July 2014 (EESC)
To mark the 15th edition of their flagship publication, the OSE and the ETUI hold a conference bringing together a wide variety of policymakers, stakeholders and researchers. They will address new debates that have gained salience on the EU agenda in the aftermath of the European elections. The conference will be followed by a lunch. Keynote speakers include Anna Diamantopoulou, José Leandro and Michele Calandrino.

slides, ...)

  New publication

A Model for Implementing Sustainable and Qualitative Growth in the EU
Sabato, S., Natali, D. and Barbier, C. (2014)

The paper, published by the Martens Centre for European Studies, sheds light on a debate that has gained momentum at both the scientific level and the political level over the past few years. It examines the state of EU economic and social governance and identifies the main elements that could contribute to an alternative path for the EU, putting forward key policy proposals for its future.


  OSE Paper Series

Governing the Social Dimension in Canadian Federalism and European Integration
Amy Verdun and Donna E. Wood (University of Victoria)
OSE Paper Series, Research Paper No.14, May 2014, 22p. 

In Canada and the European Union (EU), social policy is the responsibility of the constituent units - that is, provinces and territories in Canada and Member States in the EU. This working paper examines whether Canada can learn from how the EU coordinates social policy.


  New project

Health care reforms and the crisis
New research is being conducted for the ETUI which aims to develop a critical assessment of the reforms undertaken over the last 5 years in a representative selection of health care systems across the EU.

  European minimum income

Final report available
The OSE finalised a project for the European Economic and Social Committee that explores minimum income schemes as a tool for combating poverty within the EU. The report is now available in
English and French.



The European Social Observatory is on Twitter
We post short updates on EU developments, debates, publications and events. Join us @OSE_be.

  Neujobs Conference 

Innovation and Employment: cornerstones of the energy transition
The conference gathered different views from stakeholders - researchers, practitioners, as well as policy makers - on energy transition. Event organised by the OSE, SEURECO and the Conseil Français de l’Energie.



  OSE Paper Series

Intergenerational Justice and Public Policy in Europe
Pieter Vanhuysse (2014), OSE Opinion Paper No.16, 17p.
Population ageing right across the advanced welfare states has led to a renewed popular awareness of the notion of justice between the generations, but also to renewed academic interest. This paper reports on the Intergenerational Justice Index (IJI), and on how EU member states perform along its four dimensions. 


  New Report

A European Social Union
Friends of Europe - an independent think-tank for EU policy analysis and debate - has asked Frank Vandenbroucke and Bart Vanhercke to write a report on ‘A European Social Union: 10 tough nuts to crack'. The report provides a comprehensive survey of the development of the social dimension in European cooperation, and defines ten key questions that have to be tackled with a view to developing this Social Union.


 (Full report)

  The OSE on LinkedIn

Check out the OSE Group on LinkedIn, the fast-growing professional networking website. The OSE Group on LinkedIn currently links more than 400 researchers, policymakers, and European and national stakeholders with an interest in "Social Europe".





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