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With the establishment of EMU and, in particular, during the euro-crisis, a visible strain has emerged between “Economic” and “Social” Europe. The EU’s social deficit has triggered an increasing politicization of redistributive issues within supranational, transnational and national arenas. The key challenge facing today political leaders is how to “glue” the Union together as a recognizable, functioning and legitimate polity. This requires a double rebalancing: 1) between the logic of supranational and transnational “opening” and the logic of national “closure”; 2) between the logic of “economic stability” and that of “social solidarity”.

How can we document empirically the clash between “Economic” and “Social” Europe? What are its causes? Is “reconciliation” possible, and how? These are the fundamental research questions that REScEU set out to address. The empirical analysis has focused on four clearly observable lines of conflicts, centered on the following issues:
1) the overall mission of the EU, market-making vs market-correcting;
2) the issue of cross-national transfers and solidarity;
3) the issue of free movement and access to domestic welfare;
4) and the issue of competences, i.e. supranational integration vs domestic autonomy.
For each line of conflict, a host of empirical data have been collected: attitudinal data, social media data (twitter analysis), text-as-data (documents and speeches), qualitative data through elite interviews and process tracing.

Causal analysis has rested on the so-called “state-building” tradition in political science. Building on the neo-Weberian and neo-Rokkanian literatures, the project has elaborated an original theoretical framework. In the light of our framework, the “deconciliation” between Economic and Social Europe can be linked to two perverse and intertwined dynamics. The first dynamic is of a political and institutional nature: the crisis-induced revival of a raison d’état logic to the detriment of what might be termed raison d’Union; the increasing constriction of the European political sphere through an excess of disciplinarian formalization (rigid rules and fixed targets), largely self-defeating in terms of polity maintenance. The second dynamic is of an intellectual nature: the emergence of an “econocratic paradigm” exclusively centered on instrumental objectives, which has dried up the Spielraum for alternative symbolic frames and has obstructed the elaboration of forward looking visions, more attentive to the “caring” side of the integration project. Both dynamics have been the object of intensive empirical and explanatory exploration, including through specific case studies.
The project has rested on the assumption that “reconciliation” is not only normatively desirable and functionally necessary. It is also a political prerequisite for rescuing the European project from the risk of backsliding or even dis-integration. Building on its theoretical framework and empirical analyses, REScEU has outlined a “free standing political justification” for reconciliation and, more specifically, the establishment of a fully-fledged European Social Union (ESU).

The findings of the mass surveys have shown a surprising and unexpected attitudinal potential for reconciliation.The Eurosceptic “fog” hides in fact vast pro-EU majorities of voters. While these silent majorities shows notable fears about the social and political implications of integration, they also favor continuing EU membership, provided that the EU become more socially oriented. Voters seem ready to support a much higher degree of pan-European solidarity than currently available, including a favorable attitude vis-à-vis some of the policy solutions imagined by REScEU.
The élite survey has however shown a much lower attitudinal potential for reconciliation among national politicians (MPs) and much greater divergences, especially as regards cross-national transfers and the establishment of more effective instruments and politics aimed at “socializing” the EU and “bonding” its peoples together.

In this light, deconciliation appears less as the result of an increasing “constraining dissensus” on the side of voters than as an élite failure in internalizing “communal values”, in understanding the functional flaws of the status quo (EMU in particular) and – last but not least – the disruptive effects of deconciliation on polity maintenance and legitimation. It must be noted, however, that during the 2014-2019 legislature, efforts have started to be made by the Commission and especially by the European Parliament to revive the social dimension of integration in both discursive and institutional terms.

Through two wide policy debates organized by REScEU’s online observatory Euvisions, REScEU has involved a number of scholars from various disciplines as well as policy makers in elaborating and discussing policy proposals on how to enhance the social components of EU citizenship and how to possibly piece together the European Social Union from by exploiting the already existing acquis of social policies and “spaces”. Thus, at the practical level, REScEU’s bottom-line is that reconciliation is indeed possible, but only if carefully crafted through an extraordinary mobilization of political and intellectual resources.