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The General Framework or Primacy of the Social Dimension (Principles)
The Lisbon Treaty, the Viking and Laval Judgments and the Financial Crisis: In Search of New Foundations for Europe’s ‘Social Market Economy’
The aim of these texts is to consider the relationship between the economic and social dimensions of European integration in the light of a number of recent legal and institutional developments, including the Viking and Laval judgments,1 the changes to EU law made by the Lisbon Treaty and the unfolding financial crisis. Viking and Laval, and the subsequent case law clarifying and extending those rulings, radically altered the nature of the relationship between social policy and internal market law by asserting that national labour law rules were liable, in and of themselves, to distort competition within the internal market, and as such had to be justified by reference to a strict test of proportionality. Prior to Viking and Laval, strong national labour law systems, setting standards above a basic floor of rights guaranteed by a combination of Treaty provisions and Directives, had been not just accepted, but actively encouraged as providing a counterweight to the effects of market integration. With the emergence of open coordination methods, differences in levels of regulation between systems had been seen as providing a basis for experimentation in the social policy field. By associating the application of the labour laws of the Member States with the concept of distortion of competition,Viking and Laval undermined these approaches to social policy and threatened to initiate a race to the bottom between national systems.2
Post-Referendum Montenegro and the EU
With the resolution of the status issue in 2006, the relationship between the EU and Montenegro took up a distinct course, in which the EU’s conditionality mechanisms have proven to be the major driver of domestic political and institutional change. In fact, the stipulation of reciprocal mechanisms between Montenegro and the EU has revealed the power of both the EU’s conditionality and of broader forces in operation in the Western Balkans under the aegis of Europeanization. From the perspective of the aspiring members, the process of Europeanization primarily refers to the socialization into Europe through ‘processes of (a) construction (b) diffusion and (c) institutionalization of formal and informal rules, procedures, policy paradigms, styles, “ways of doing things” and shared beliefs and norms which are first defined and consolidated in the making of EU decisions and then incorporated in the logic of domestic discourse, identities, political structures and public policies’.
The EU and Montenegro, 2000-2006
Since 1999, most of the stabilization initiatives in the Western Balkans have been realized under the aegis of the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP), aimed at assisting the Western Balkan countries in meeting the criteria of EU membership. The conditionality of European integration envisaged in SAP introduced a paradigm for domestic institutional reform, through its pressure on the post-Yugoslav countries. The SAP envisaged the political, financial, logistical and professional assistance through trade liberalization, financial assistance and the signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA). Hence, the export of European values through the conditionality of the EU accession process has largely been perceived as an impetus for internal institutional reform in the countries of the Western Balkans.
The EU and Montenegro, 1997-2000
The aftermath of the conflict period in the Balkans brought about a shift in the EU’s approach to the common foreign policy, which increasingly became the ‘silent disciplining power on the “near abroad”’. Still, unlike the hard military power and coercive mechanisms ensuring compliance often used by the US throughout the 1990s, European foreign policy primarily involved the export of EU norms and values as a means of stabilizing the fragile Western Balkan region. This process was initiated immediately after the signature of the Dayton-Paris Agreement ending the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but did not gain momentum until the post-Nice period. The contextualization of the EU’s approach to the region was of particular significance in Montenegro, which, after 1997, embarked on a distinct political course marked not only by domestic political polarization but also by detachment from the FRY institutions.