On the other hand, it is hard to deny that the response to the crisis, and the ensuing reform of surveillance and finan-
cial assistance mechanisms, has had a bearing on the situation. Indeed, these mechanisms have been mostly modelled
around certain core neoliberal policy prescriptions, such as budgetary austerity or the flexibilisation of labour markets
and the repression of wage demands, which severely reduce the capacity of national social spaces to perform their
This article critically engages with the reconfiguration of the role and status of national social spaces within the
EU constitutional fabric after the reform of European economic governance. Its main contention is that these reforms
have converted national social spaces into adjustment variables whose main function is to contribute to the pursuit of
EMU‐related objectives. This transformation alters the balance between the economic and the social dimension in
the EU legal order, deforming one of the defining traits of its constitutional identity.
The analysis builds upon the
burgeoning legal literature
—and even meta‐literature
—on EU constitutional transformations in the aftermath of
the Eurozone crisis. It does so by focusing on one aspect—the status of national social spaces in the EMU—which
is still under‐researched, and by connecting it with other lines of inquiry, such as the one on the demise of the rule
of law in Europe, which have received far more attention. Moreover, the analysis draws on political science works
concerned with the role of national social spaces in the EU building process, as well as with the tensions generated
by the encounter between the two.
In more detail, the article first tracks the trajectory of the role and status of national social spaces within the
European integration process, from the so‐called “original compromise”, enshrined in the Treaty of Rome, to the
Lisbon Treaty's attempt to reconcile the “economic”and the “social”within the supranational legal framework.
The analysis then focuses on the early steps of the EMU and their potential impact upon the scope and functions
of national social spaces. The third part of the article looks at the reform of European economic governance,
starting from the strengthening of economic and social policies coordination mechanisms. The main point here is
that, at least in its early cycles, the European Semester contributed much to the subordination of national social
spaces to the strengthening of the EMU, paying scant attention to safeguarding their capacity to pursue core
social objectives. This part of the analysis also considers the efforts to imbue the Semester with greater social
sensitivity, claiming that the attempts to move away from the original one‐sided approach are certainly promising,
but still too limited. Lastly, the analysis turns to financial assistance programmes and the use of the conditionality
policy therein. The analysis shows that, in this context, the above‐described transformative process reached its
apex, treating national social spaces just as a cost to be reduced or as a factor that must contribute to making
the State concerned more competitive. The article takes a critical stance towards this approach and its
implementing strategy centred on the creation of “empty constitutional spaces”
in order to insulate technocratic
governance from political and legal responsibility. Likewise, the article criticises some recent attempts to inject
greater social sensitivity into both the procedure and the substance of structural adjustment programmes, showing
their manifest inadequacy in restoring balance between the pursuit of EMU‐related objectives and the
safeguarding of national social spaces.
Claire Kilpatrick described this drift as a form of “displacement of Social Europe”. See C. Kilpatrick, ‘The Displacement of Social
Europe: A Productive Lens of Inquiry’, (2018) 14 European Constitutional Law Review, 62.
See, ex multis, M. Ioannidis, ‘Europe's New Transformations: How the EU Economic Constitution Changed During the Eurozone Cri-
sis’,(2016) 53 Common Market Law Review, 1237 ; F. De Witte and M. Dawson, ‘From Balance to Conflict: A New Constitution for the
EU’, (2015) 22 European Law Journal, 204.
T. Beuker, ‘Legal Writing(s) on the Eurozone Crisis’,EUI Working Paper 2015/11; G. Martinico, ‘EU Crisis and Constitutional Muta-
tions: A Review Article’, (2014) STALS Research paper No. 3.
See, recently, M. Ferrera, ‘The JCMS Annual Lecture: National Welfare States and European Integration: In Search of a “Virtuous
Nesting”’, (2009) 47 Journal of Common Market Studies, 219.
A.J. Menéndez, ‘The Crisis and the European Crises: From Social and Democratic Rechtsstaat to the Consolidating State of (Pseudo‐)
technocratic Governance’, (2017) 44 Journal of Law and Society, 56, 75.