Is the EU minimum income directive a placebo or the final chance to save a terminally-ill Social Europe?

Nurse: “Doctor! This patient looks really bad. Is there anything still we can do to save it?

Doctor: “Well, let’s take a look at European social model, shall we?”

Symptoms and side-effects of incorrect treatment

Democracy in the European Union is under serious threat because of the political-business symbiotic virus. Following the bailout prescription, states across Europe have impoverished themselves to keep the very banks which caused the crisis alive. As a result, neither the tools nor the flexibility to respond to the symptoms of the crisis are available.

Distrust towards institutions is growing because the private sector is taking over the management of member states from the public sector. This has reached Europe’s central nervous system, Brussels, and it seems like the patient is losing the will to survive.

The desperate and reckless injection of money into Europe’s banks has failed to produce the expected results, and investment is not being translated into real growth. The poor state of the current EU socio-economic model has revealed new forms of poverty: homelessness, fuel poverty, financial exclusion and household debt. Meanwhile, the banks continue to expand like swollen glands, with little benefit to society .

When it comes to employment, the best one could say is that the EU citizens are concerned by the spread of precarious jobs and low wages but are taking little real action to stop it. Needless to say, the peripheral EU members are at serious risk of gangrene due to poor labour reforms which demand the improvement of flexibility whilst reducing labour costs, workers’ rights and job-creation.


The disastrous and nefarious treatment of the economic crisis is fostering social divisions amongst citizens and between nations. According to the Troika’s prescription -which governments blindly agreed- the patient should be getting better but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, the patient could collapse at any moment. The remedial possibility of an EU minimum wage is quite controversial amongst medical colleagues but there is still some hope. In some specialised policy circles, a plan of treatment to save the European Project are afoot; it is called the EU Framework Directive on Minimum Income Protection.


The treatment states that a Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) is income support that is not linked to payment of contributions and which provides a safety net for those not eligible for social security benefits. As the last defense against poverty, it is inextricably linked to the right to a decent life for people who have no other means of ensuring an income.

The proposed directive would set common standards and indicators, as well as providing methods to monitor and analyse its implementation within the patient organism. In terms of combating the illness, the GMI would require the involvement of social partners, beneficiaries and stakeholders when establishing or revising national minimum income treatments. On the defensive, solid data gathering would prevent quacks from undertaking pernicious policies which would worsen the patient’s condition.

The use of the GMI drug could both mitigate the social impact of the crisis and have a counter-cyclical impact by providing further resources to boost demand in the internal market. There are solid figures which demonstrate that it would help to achieve economic and social cohesion. In addition, it would also help to protect the fundamental rights of the individual, guarantee a balance between economic and social objectives, and redistribute wealth and income fairly. It would also be instrumental in ensuring that the Europe 2020 strategy concerning employment, poverty and social exclusion are actually achieved. It seems to be an utmost fundamental prerequisite to reinforcing solidarity within and among member states, thus sending a strong message to EU citizens that the EU social project is not dead – but we all need to pitch in for a cure.

A longer version of this article originally appeared on the European Public Affairs website.