Taking Stock and Looking Ahead: Research on the EU as Actor in Social Policy

23 February 2024
Research Seminar

This seminar is taking place at UNU-CRIS, Potterierei 72 in Bruges on Friday, 23 February 2024 from 10.00 - 16.00. Registration is free but mandatory as places are limited.

To register, please send an e-mail to Ine.Lietaert@UGent.be no later than 16 February 2024.

Social policy refers to a set of government actions, programs, and strategies designed to address and influence social issues, improve the well-being of individuals and communities, and promote social justice and equity within society. The study of the development and implementation of social policy has for a long time been locked into a nation-state-centric
approach. A more regional perspective was brought in by scholars working on comparisons between “welfare regimes” and, later on, attempts to develop social policies within the European unification programme. The latter has somehow stalled in light of the virtual suspension of explicit EU social policy initiatives since the Delors presidency. More recently, a more global or international focus brought attention to the impact of global trends on social policy (e.g. neoliberalism and neo-managerialism), trans-national social challenges (e.g. responses to refugees), the role of supra-national actors on social policy development (e.g. privatization of welfare services or the role of intergovernmental organizations), and the complexities surrounding global solidarity in relation to regional and national social policies.

However, there is still an urgent need to develop deeper insights into the role of the EU as a powerful actor in social policy development, as well as its role in the impact of global forces on national and regional social policies and more specifically whether it acts as a promoter of or as a defence against powerful international interests. With this seminar, we aim to zoom in on the European Union as an implicit or explicit supra-national social policy actor, both mediating between and influencing national and international developments and bringing together scholars ready to engage in a discussion on fruitful agendas for further social policy research in this perspective. The seminar approaches the ‘EU as policy actor’ in a broad sense, aiming to pay attention to both developments within regional European social policy and its interactions with practices in its member states, as well as to the EU as a powerful actor interacting with social policies outside its regional space. In concrete, we are interested in contributions that (1) trace historically the modes in which the European project took account of trans-national social policy issues, 2) take stock of the current discourses, directions or norm-setting within EU initiatives that have social policy implications, 3) give empirical insights into implications and consequences of European policies for national and local welfare policies within and outside Europe based on this we shall conduct a discussion on possible ways forward for this research field in light of crucial questions of solidarity, reducing inequality and enhancement of wellbeing.



09.30 - 10.00

Arrival of Participants and Coffee (Björn Hettne Meeting Room, ground floor)

10.00 - 10.30

Introduction - Philippe De Lombaerde (Director UNU-CRIS) and Rudi Roose (Department Head Social Work and Social Pedagogy UGent)

10.30 - 11.15

Walter Lorenz, Charles University/Free University of Bolzen/Bolzano

11.15 - 12.00


12.00 - 12.30


12.30 - 13.15

Jos Sterckx, Odisee University of Applied Sciences

13.15 - 14.00

Ine Lietaert, UNU-CRIS and Ghent University

14.00 - 15.30

Exchange, brainstorm and agenda setting