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Enlargements, and Displacements of Social Europe: the Example of Sweden

  • Hanna Eklund


EU law – Investigating the displacement of Social Europe at moments of EU enlargement – Sweden as an example of how Social Europe can be displaced – Enlargement of 1995 and austerity policy – Enlargement of 2004 and posted workers – Enlargement of 2007 and ‘vulnerable’ EU-migrants



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Postdoctoral Research Fellow, SciencesPo École de Droit,



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1 Esping-Andersen, G., The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (Princeton University Press 1993) p. 27-28 . Esping-Andersen described the regime-cluster where Sweden figured as the one in which ‘the principles of universalism and de-commodification of social rights were extended also to the middle-class. … All benefit; all are dependent; and all will presumably feel obliged to pay.’ For a nuanced assessment of this history see Andersson, J., ‘Nordic Nostalgia and Nordic Light: the Swedish model as Utopia 1930-2007’, 34 Scandinavian Journal of History (2009) p. 229 .

2 Examples of such social protection, mainly but not only aimed at working people, are Directive 2006/54/EC on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (recast); Council Directive 93/104/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time; Council Directive 96/34/EC on the framework agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC.

3 For a fuller explanation of this definition see C. Kilpatrick, ‘The Displacement of Social Europe: A productive lens of inquiry’, in this special issue. Kilpatrick goes on to explain how one of the ‘key aims of analyses focusing on displacement is to test the persuasiveness of different explanations and evaluations of Social Europe developments. In so doing, it is also to ask about the conditions under which Social Europe might find new ways to flourish in the contemporary EU’.

4 I suggest that one interesting way of learning more about displacement would be to proceed in this way for every member state.

5 Schirmann, S., ‘Willy Brandt et les débuts de l’Europe sociale, 1969-1974’, in A. Wilkens (ed.), Willy Brandt et l’unité de l’Europe: De l’objectif de la paix aux solidarités nécessaires (P.I.E. Lang 2011) p. 311-324 ; see further A. Andry, ‘Social Europe in the long 1970s: the story of a defeat’ (EUI PhD 2017).

6 Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services and ECJ 18 December 2007, Case C-341/05, Laval un Partneri Ltd v Svenska Byggnadsarbetareförbundet.

7 ECJ 11 November 2014, Case 333/13, Dano v Jobcenter Leipzig and ECJ 15 September 2015, Case 67/14, Jobcenter Berlin Neukölln v Alimanovic.

8 At the time of the 1995 enlargement the Maastricht ‘convergence criteria’ were already in place and the Stability and Growth Pact had already been negotiated, albeit it was not in force.

9 See further Ross, J.F.L., ‘Sweden, the European Community, and the Politics of Economic Realism’, 26 Cooperation and Conflict (1991) p. 117 and Luif, P., On the road to Brussels: the political dimension of Austria’s, Finland’s, and Sweden’s accession to the European Union (Purdue University Press 1995) p. 122 .

10 In Regeringens skrivelse Proposition 1990/91:50 and it is also stated in the memoirs of Ingvar Carlsson, who was prime minister at the time, see Carlsson, I., Så tänkte jag [My Thoughts] (Hjalmarson & Högberg 2003) p. 409 .

11 The principal document is the sizeable committee inquiry, SOU 1994:6, Sverige och Europa en samhällsekonomisk konsekvensanalys. For debate on this inquiry see Lundborg, P., ‘Tro och vetande i EU-konsekvensutredningen’, 22 Ekonomisk Debatt (1994) p. 127 and Baimbridge, M. et al. ‘Välfärdsstaten och Maastrichtfördraget–konsekvenser för Storbritannien och Sverige’, 23 Ekonomisk Debatt (1995) p. 399 .

12 See Proposition 1994/95:100, bilaga 1, p. 24 and Proposition 1994/95:150, bilaga 1, p. 4.

13 Fraser, N., ‘Contradictions in Capital and Care’, 100 New Left Review (2016) p. 99 at p. 112.

14 In 1993 45% of the Swedish working population was employed in the public sector, in 2016 it was just under 30%.

15 In 1997 29.6% were ‘largely positive’ on EU-membership, in 2007 that number was 49.9% and in 2017 54.5%. In 1997 22.9% of the Swedish population was ‘largely positive on introducing the Euro currency’, 2006 that number was 35.5% and in 2017 this number was 18.9%: Statistiska centralbyrån;, accessed on 5 October 2017.

16 Kilpatrick, C., ‘Are the Bailouts Immune to EU Social Challenge Because They Are Not EU Law?’, 10 EUConst (2014) p. 393 . Kilpatrick summarises the measures taken as a result of the bailouts as ‘extensive cuts to, or limitations in who can access, health and education provision; reduced access to and levels of pensions and other social benefits; reductions in the size and pay of the public sector; a decentralising and dismantling of collective bargaining; cuts to minimum wages and related employment safety nets for vulnerable workers; and reduced employment protection’.

17 Sveriges Riksdag, Föredragningslista 2012/13:52.

18 T Lundin, ‘Svenska pengar kan användas till nödlån’ [Swedish money could be spent on bailouts], Svenska Dagbladet, 14 July 2015.

19 Ketscher, K., ‘Kvinnor, jämställdhet och socialförsäkring i EU’, 2 Tidskrift för genusvetenskap (1994) p. 37 .

20 Fi 1993: 06, EG-konsekvensutredningarna Samhällsekonomi och Social välfärd av Stefan Fölster och Eva Lindström Sveriges offentliga sektor i europeisk konkurrens: konsekvenser av EES- avtalet och medlemskap i EG/EU.

21 Kilpatrick, supra n. 16, p. 393.

22 P. Manow, et al., ‘European Social Policy and Europe’s Party-Political Center of Gravity, 1957–2003’, MPIfG Discussion Paper 04/6 (2006).

23 For instance during the first part of the 1990s the following important secondary law instruments for social protection were enacted: Council Directive 92/85/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding; Council Directive 93/104/EC, concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time; Council Directive 96/34/EC on the framework agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC.

25 ‘Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå, Göran Persson orolig för “social turism”’ [Göran Persson worried about ‘social tourism’], Aftonbladet, 23 November 2003.

26 See the opinions produced by the government: Regeringens skrivelse Proposition 2003/04:119, Särskilda regler under en övergångsperiod för arbetstagare från nya medlemsstater enligt anslutningsfördraget.

27 The prime minister’s use of ‘social tourism’ created an unlikely alliance between the Left Party and the Centre-Right parties, with both sides turning against the xenophobic undertones of the term and voting against the proposal. See the transcript of a debate in the parliament’s social security committee; Betänkande 2003/04:SfU15, p. 29 and 85.

28 Proposition 1998/99:90, Utstationering av arbetstagare, page 25-27.

29 In 2015, of the 42,697 workers registered as posted to Sweden from all over the world, 36,832 came from the EU. Out of these 42,697 individuals, 22,950 were registered as working within the (broadly defined) construction sector, which is therefore by far the most common sector for posted workers, followed by computer programming.

30 Arbetsmiljöverket, Helårsrapport 2015, Register för företag som utstationerar arbetstagare i Sverige.

31 Sigeman, T., ‘Fackliga stridsåtgärder mot gästande tjänsteföretag – EG-rätten förtydligad’, SvJT (2008) p. 553 at p. 567 (emphasis added).

32 The most eloquently entitled example being Barnard, C., ‘Social dumping or dumping socialism’, 67 Cambridge Law Journal (2008) p. 262 .

33 SOU 2015:13 Tillämpningsdirektivet till utstationeringsdirektivet, Del I and SOU 2015:13 Tillämpningsdirektivet till utstationeringsdirektivet, Del II.

34 The Social Democratic/Green Party Government achieved a majority in the Riksdag with support from the xenophobic right-wing Swedish Democrats. For voting records, see <>, accessed 2 January 2018.

35 Report from the Commission, Annual Report 2012 on Subsidiarity and Proportionality, Brussels, 30 July 2013 COM (2013) 566 final.

36 COM (2012) 130: Proposal for a Council Regulation on the exercise of the right to take collective action within the context of the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services.

37 These Reasoned Opinions came from Chambre des Représentants, Folketing, Eduskunta, Sénat, Saeima, Chambre des Députés, Kamra tad-Deputati, Tweede Kamer, Sejm, Assembleia da República, House of Commons, and Riksdag.

38 Arbetsmarknadsutskottets utlåtande, 2011/12:AU14, Subsidiaritetsprövning av förslag till Monti II-förordning.

39 Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services, COM(2016)128.

40 See <>, visited 2 January 2018.

41 T. Nandorf, ‘Ett steg närmre svenska avtal för utländska arbetare i EU’ [One step closer to Swedish agreements for foreign workers in the EU], Dagens Nyheter, 2 December 2016.

42 General Secretariat of the Council, 13612/17, Brussels, 24 October 2017. With this agreement the Council can start negotiations with the European Parliament.

43 Hyman, R., ‘Imagined Solidarities: Can Trade Unions Resist Globalization?’, in P. Leisink (ed.), Globalization and Labour Relations (Edward Elgar 1999) p. 98 .

44 Informally described as the ‘two legs of the Swedish workers’ movement’. The Trade Union Confederation contributes financially to the Social Democratic Party and the leader of the TUC is also automatically a member of the SDP’s executive board. L. Hennel, ‘70-miljoner i LO-stöd till S’ [70 million in TUC support to SDP], Svenska Dagbladet, 5 February 2014.

45 A. Neergaard, ‘Det fackliga löftet: solidaritet, fackföreningsrörelse och arbetskraftsinvandring, Arbetskraft från hela världen’ (Delmi Rapport och Policy Brief 2015:9) p. 219.

46 According to Byggnads own statistics, see <>, visited 2 January 2018.

47 During the 2009 European parliamentary election, four out of seven election posters advertising the Social Democratic Party were related to protection of the Swedish labour market model. They read; ‘Fair working conditions!’, ‘Unfair working conditions is not the answer!’, ‘Work first!’, ‘Avoid job crises!’. Out of the four national posters advertising the Social Democratic Party in the European parliamentary election in 2014, three related to the protection of the Swedish labour market model (‘Vote for fair conditions’, ‘Swedish salary for everyone in Sweden’, ‘Do you think that jobs are important?’): see <>, visited 20 January 2018.

48 Syrpis, P. and Novitz, T., ‘Economic and Social Rights in Conflict: Political and Judicial Approaches to their Reconsiliation’, 33 European Law Journal (2008) p. 411 ; Giubboni, S, ‘Social Rights and Market Freedom in the European Constitution: A Re-Appraisal’, 1 European Labour Law Journal (2010) p. 161 ; Nielson, R, ‘Free Movement and Fundamental Rights’, 1(1) European Labour Law Journal (2010) p. 19 .

49 Fudge, J., ‘Constitutionalizing Labour Rights in Canada and Europe: Freedom of Association, Collective Bargaining, and Strikes’, 68 Current Legal Problems (2015) p. 267 .

50 ECJ 14 October 2004, Case C-36/02, Omega Spielhallen v Oberbürgermeisterin der Bundesstadt Bonn; ECJ 14 February 2008, Case C-244/06, Dynamic Medien v Avides Media AG; ECJ 22 December 2010, Case C-208/09, Sayn-Wittgenstein v Landeshauptmann von Wien.

51 Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå, ‘Inga hinder för rumäner och bulgarer’ [No obstacles for Romanians and Bulgarians], Sydsvenskan, 20 October 2006.

52 J. Hökerberg, ‘Hemliga förhandlingar om tiggarna i Sverige’ [Secret negotiations concerning the beggars in Sweden], Dagens Nyheter, 8 April 2014.

53 SOU 2016:6, Framtid sökes. Slutredovisning av nationella samordnaren för utsatta EU-medborgare, p. 10 and 19-20.

54 SOU 2016:6, p. 13.

58 SOU 2016:6, p. 44.

59 Dano, para. 74.

60 Art. 14.4(b) of the Citizenship Directive. See further O’Brien, C., ‘Civis capitalist sum: Class as the new guiding principle of EU free movement rights’, 53 Common Market Law Review (2016) p. 937 .

61 The Swedish Government’s written submission to the ECJ in Case C-67/14, Alimanovic, dated 27 May 2014.

62 The Italian Government’s written submission to the ECJ in Case C-67/14, Alimanovic, dated 19 May 2014 read in its conclusion: ‘L’art. 45, paragrafo 2, TFUE in combinato disposto con l’art. 18 TFUE osta ad una disposizione di diritto nazionale che, per il periodo del diritto di soggiorno giustificato dalla finalità di ricercare lavoro e a prescindere dal collegamento con lo Stato membro ospitante, neghi senza eccezioni a cittadini dell’Unione che, quali persone, in cerca di occupazione, possono avvalersi del diritto alla libera circolazione, una prestazione sociale finalizzata a garantire la sussistenza e, allo stesso tempo, ad agevolare l’accesso al mercato del lavoro.’

* Postdoctoral Research Fellow, SciencesPo École de Droit, .

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Enlargements, and Displacements of Social Europe: the Example of Sweden

  • Hanna Eklund


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