This article discusses the evolution of European Union (EU) legislation and policymaking methods during the 10 years since the onset of the financial and economic crisis in 2007/ 2008. In the EU, this period has been characterized by politics of stimulus, austerity, and recovery. Against the backdrop of longer term developments in equality law, we consider how the crisis context influenced this field’s evolution. Through the analysis of a range of legislative and policy proposals, we show that the progressive softening or hybridization of equality law over this period has gone hand in hand with the stronger articulation of equality objectives in terms of a “business case.” While this approach appears to have enabled the proliferation of policy and legal instruments and expanded the reach of equality law into areas where the EU has limited competence to legislate, it has also elevated instrumental economic goals for action at expense of human rights or social rationales. This longer term tendency is also present in the recently adopted European Pillar of Social Rights, and the accompanying policy documentation, which have been hailed as carrying potential to infuse more coherence and to rebalance the social and economic rationales that the EU integration project has unevenly promoted over the years. Mindful that it is still too early for conclusive judgments, we suggest, however, that the transformative possibilities the Pillar carries are likely to be undermined by its soft and economically oriented thrust.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Coherence, EU equality law, Human rights, Hybrid regulation, Marketization, Social pillar, Soft law
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1177/1358229118799234
Journal International Journal of Discrimination and the Law
Citation
Lahuerta, S.B. (Sara Benedi), & Zbyszewska, A. (2018). EU equality law after a decade of austerity: On the Social Pillar and its transformative potential. International Journal of Discrimination and the Law, 18(2-3), 163–192. doi:10.1177/1358229118799234