The Politics of Competitiveness Adjustment in the Euro-Area. A Critical Policy Analysis of European Integration in Times of Crisis

  • Christian Scholz

Student thesis: Phd


The onset of the Euro-Area crisis in 2008/09 brought about a rapid reorganisation of the economic governance framework of the Economic and Monetary Union of the EU (EMU). The result was the establishment of the New European Economic Governance (NEEG). The thesis explores the form and content (i.e. rationale) of the development of the NEEG. The exploration starts from the observation that, while extraordinary measures have been taken in terms of fiscal and monetary policy, the only constant throughout the politics of the Euro-Area crisis was the promotion of labour market reforms in the name of competitiveness. However, the dominant European integration literature has not investigated the significance of this initiative to the creation of the NEEG. The literature, in other words, avoids touching upon the political dimension of labour relations. In contrast, my thesis approaches the recent process of European integration precisely from this different angle bringing the promotion of labour market reforms to the forefront and reflecting upon the underlying class conflict between capital and labour. Thus, my research contributes through an innovative and empirically-grounded class-based perspective on the emergence of the NEEG to the field of European integration studies. The argument is that the emergence of the NEEG was significantly driven by the aim to promote competitiveness adjustment throughout the EA, which reveals an underlying class strategy to empower capital over labour. The original institutional design of the EMU required Member States' commitment to manage their national economies through labour market reforms that foster international (price) competitiveness. The establishment of the NEEG has reinforced this policymaking logic of the institutional arrangement through the creation of new capacities for EU-level executives to intervene with national labour market policy and commit Member States to competitiveness adjustment. This is illustrated on grounds of the promotion of competitiveness adjustment in practice in several Member States through the operation of the new Financial Assistance Facilities and the new Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure. However, I argue that this policymaking logic, and the concrete pattern of labour market reforms put forward, facilitates capital's confrontation of the working class with a view on compressing unit labour costs. In other words, the emergence of the NEEG reflects the power-laden dynamics of the conflict between capital and labour.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorIan Bruff (Supervisor) & Adrienne Roberts (Supervisor)


  • European Class Politics
  • EU Labour Market Policy
  • EU Crisis Management
  • Political Economy of European Integration
  • Critical Political Economy

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