COURSE: EU social policies and the welfare states

Course content

The course will examine European Union social policy integration and its impact on the national welfare states. A broad definition of social policy will be taken, including healthcare, education and the labour market. We will take a historical and contemporary view on how and through which dynamics an EU social policy has evolved and which impact it has had on national policies and administrative practices. The dynamics of European social integration will be analysed theoretically, using and contrasting neo-functionalism, liberal intergovernmentalism, institutionalism, including an actor-centered approach as well as include different approaches to the study of law and politics. But equal weight will be given to the empirical study of dynamics and content of an EU social policy. To what extent has integration been driven forward by the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union, in the absence or incapacity of politics? EU social policy has long been held to be a process left to courts and markets, but this course will bring in the role of politics, interests and the EU legislators, i.e. the European Council and the European Parliament in the gradual development of the policy domain. In the examination of impact on the welfare states, a comparative approach will be taken in order to understand and explain why adaptation to and impact of EU integration differ between member states, across policies and eventually time. 

The course will provide tehoretical and analytical insights into a wide range of welfare policy integration and Europeanisation themes such as: cross border healthcare in teh European Union, patient and professional mobility in the European Union, interaction between EU internal market principles and national labour market regulation, EU austerity easures and their impact on national welfare policies, free movement and cross border welfare, currently politicisised as ‘welfare tourism’. The political and legal development and impact of these policy areas are analysed and discussed, their differentiated form and the extent to which they are implemented and complied with as well as the course will place them analytically into debates of sovereignity, legitimacy and accountability.    


The course is taught as one of the electives of the Specialization in European Union Studies. The course is, however, also open to students in general, who have a basic knowledge and interest in the European Union and the study hereof. The course will be taught in English, 3 hours pr. week in the last 10 weeks of the autumn semester. This means that the course will start first week of October.


Elective course in the "Specialization in European Union Studies"

The course is open to all students at the department

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS
Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS


Learning outcome

The objective of the course is to become familiar with the full range of issues concerning EU social integration and its impact. The course aims to make the students engage in the theoretical and empirical discussions of the scope, limits and impact of an EU social policy – also in its most current setting. The course aims to provide its students with analytical capacities to undertake complex studies of interaction between the EU and national level of regulation, decision-making and implementation.


In particular students can expect to:

  • Become familiar with multi-level decision-making in EU welfare policy regulation

  • Enhance their theoretical and analytical toolbox of understanding and researching inter and intra-institutional dynamics between the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Council and the European Parliament in adopting EU social policies

  • Enhance their theoretical and analytical toolbox of understanding and researching the impact of these policies on the national level

  • Enhance their theoretical and analytical toolbox of understanding and researching welfare Europeanisation as well as implementation of and compliance with EU welfare regulation.


The course will be conducted through a mix of lecture and discussion, with an emphasis on the latter. Students are expected to contribute significantly to these discussions based on regular attendance and prior reading of all class assignments. In the study of impact, students are encourage to focus on specific member states and/or policies and compare the specifics of their case with those of other students.

The following material will be used in the course (more to follow):

Anderson, K. (2015) Social Policy in the European Union, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Conant, L.J. (2002) Justice Contained, Law and Politics in the European Union, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

De la Porte, C. and Natali, D. (2014) 'Altered Europeanisation of pension reform in the context of the great recession: Denmark and Italy compared'. West European Politics 37(4).

Falkner, G., Treib, O., Hartlapp, M., and Leiber, S. (2005) 'Complying with Europe. EU Harmonisation and Soft Law in the Member States', in. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ferrera, M. (2005) The boundaries of welfare: European integration and the new spatial politics of social protection, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hemerijck, A. (2013) Changing Welfare States, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Höpner, M. and Schäfer, A. (2012) 'Embeddedness and Regional Integration: Waiting for Polanyi in a Hayekian Setting'. International Organization 66(03):429-55.

Leibfried, S. (2010) 'Social Policy: Left to the Judges and the Markets?', in H.S. Wallace, W. Wallace, M.A. Pollack, H. Wallace and A.R. Young (eds.), Policy-Making in the European Union. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 253-83.

Martinsen, D.S. (2015) An Ever More Powerful Court? The Political Constraints of Legal Integration in the European Union, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Martinsen, D.S. and Mayoral Diaz-Asensio, J. (2016) 'A Judicialisation of Healthcare Policies in Denmark and Spain?  The Universalist Healthcare Model Meets the European Union '. Comparative European Politics.

Martinsen, D.S. and Vollaard, H. (2014) 'Implementing Social Europe in Times of Crises: Re-established Boundaries of Welfare?'. West European Politics 37(4):677-92.

Scharpf, F.W. (2002) 'The European Social Model: Coping with the Challenges of Diversity'. Journal of Common Market Studies 40(4):645-70.

Scharpf, F.W. (2010) 'The Asymmetry of European Integration, or Why the EU Cannot Be a ‘ Social Market Economy’'. Socio-Economic Review 8(2):211-50.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Oral exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Course Preparation
  • 107
  • Preparation
  • 25
  • Exercises
  • 25
  • Exam Preparation
  • 20
  • Exam
  • 1
  • English
  • 206