National Welfare State Reforms and the Question of Europeanization: From Impact to Usages
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This paper reviews the literature concerned with the interaction between the European Union and national welfare state reforms. Its interest lies in the studies that have been proposed of the interplay between the European Union and national policy-making in the field of social protection. Two main ways of approaching the analysis of this interaction can be identified. These two strands of literature are linked to different understanding of the question of the impact of the EU. A first one relates to the eventual outcomes of the influence of European integration on national welfare state reforms: does Europe matter at all? What is the content of this influence, its meaning and orientation? The second strand is linked to the assessment of the mechanisms of the influence of European integration in a changing policy-making environment: how does the EU matter? Many variables have to be taken into account, including informal and interactive forms of influence. Having reviewed these debates, this paper turns to the main axes for future research, pointing to the role of actors as mediators of European impact – and not only as transmission and intermediary variables. In order to capture the processes of transformation related to domestic adaptation to European integration, a crucial point is the political construction of impacts, i.e. the “usages” of Europe.