by Steffen Stierle
Steffen Stierle is one of the coordinators of the European Lexit network as well as active in Attac Germany and the Eurexit initiative. He works as a freelance journalist in Berlin. His thematic focus is the political economy of European integration.
Cross-posted from Makroskop
Cross-posted from Makroskop and Brave New Europe. Translated and edited by BRAVE NEW EUROPE.
Leftists like to add that the fundamental social rights of the British are also in jeopardy, as they are protected by the EU. Thomas Fazi and Bill Mitchell have already pointed out the weaknesses of the economic forecasts and argued why it is nonsense to view the EU as a shield for social rights.
Looking to the North – above all at Norway, a European nation that twice voted against EU membership by referendum and is now at the top of the global prosperity scale – supports Fazi’s and Mitchell’s argumentation.
Let us first look at Sweden – the former Scandinavian model nation that joined the EU in 1995 – as an example to illustrate the challenges posed by EU membership for the Scandinavian welfare model. Later, we shall examine Sweden’s economic and social developments since joining the EU compared with those of Norway. Finally, in an interview with the Oslo historian and trade union researcher Idar Helle, we approach the question of to what extent the Norwegian experience are applicable in the case of Great Britain.
The neoliberalisation of Scandinavia
A look at Sweden shows how challenging the EU rules are for generous welfare states and economies with a broad public sector. Until its accession to the EU, the country was regarded as the ideal example of the Scandinavian welfare model: high and even distribution of income, a broad public sector, strong redistribution through tax and social policy, etc. In the meantime, however, the EU has had more influence on Sweden than vice versa.
The EU’s economic and fiscal rules are hard law, i.e. tough, binding, and sanctionable rules. Those areas in which Sweden has been able to exert influence incorporating its background of Scandinavian traditions at best occur at EU level as soft laws and therefore remain non-binding. Who remembers the European Employment Strategy or the EU´s Open Method of Coordination? And for whom does ESM still stand for the “European social model” today? Sweden has contributed a great deal here, but these contributions have remained structurally subordinated to the hard core of EU rules for integration.