Liberalizing markets, liberalizing welfare

Hanan Haber (London School of Economics, Photo credit LSE Department of Government)

The EU’s ventures into social policy-making have been few and far between, as member states remain reluctant to cede their competencies on taxation, spending and social insurance to the supranational level. Nonetheless, albeit a lack of capacity for social policy-making, positive integration via supranational social regulation can still have a crucial impact on welfare state regimes across the EU. In his article “Liberalizing markets, liberalizing welfare? Economic reform and social regulation in the EU’s electricity regime” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Hanan Haber analyses how and why social provisions were added to the EU’s electricity sector reform, highlighting their impact on national welfare states. Hanan’s research shows that the EU’s response to consumer dissatisfaction amid power blackouts and rising prices emphasised the protection of vulnerable consumers and the concept of energy poverty, which reflected regulations common in the liberal welfare regime of the United Kingdom. By adopting supranational social regulations concerned with an issue by and large exclusive to liberal welfare states, the EU introduced liberal welfare problems and solutions to other types of welfare regimes, effectively “promoting a liberal model of welfare through social regulation, pushing member states towards this type of welfare.”