Across the political spectrum, there is widespread agreement that the European Union (EU) needs a palpable social dimension. In this paper, based on this policy study conducted as part of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies' Young Academics Network, Marius Ostrowski outlines a research-driven policy proposal on how this social dimension can be achieved in the light of the diversity of national welfare systems in the EU.
He argues that a Universal Basic Income (UBI) could be a conceptually appealing policy to be implemented at the EU level, complementing national welfare states. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the policy is receiving unprecedented and ever-increasing attention, and enjoys widespread public popularity, but is viewed with skepticism by major political parties.
The study on which this paper is based offers a unified source of information for progressive policymakers, advocates, consultants, and researchers who are interested in (a) how a European UBI could be concretely designed and (b) the reasoning and justifications behind its concrete design decisions. In order to formulate a policy proposal that could potentially foster cross-partisan compromises and move public policy preferences and political reality closer together, Marius Ostrowski and his team of co-authors conducted a comprehensive review of historical and contemporary UBI debates, gathered the key arguments presented in academic, popular, political, and organisational sources, and reflected on them from logical, normative, and empirical perspectives.
Based on the most plausible arguments for and against a UBI, they designed a concrete policy proposal for a UBI at the EU level that responds to broadly progressive ideals from different partisan backgrounds. The result is an ambitious yet feasible proposal that bridges political divides and, if implemented, would be the most substantial leap for Social Europe yet.
Conversations for the Future of Europe
In order to guide the steps of the European Union and in order to mobilize its citizens so as to make such steps possible, it is not enough to analyse the past and to criticize the present. It is crucial to concoct concrete proposals for a better future and to subject them to a no-nonsense, multidisciplinary discussion. The conversations for the future of Europe aim to contribute to such a discussion.
A concern for concreteness and political feasibility should be present throughout, the aim being, as in Robert Schuman’s 1950 declaration, "des realisations concrètes" rather than vague dreams. However, this should not prevent us from bearing in mind Max Weber’s warning at the end of Politik als Beruf : Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. A concern for feasibility is compatible with boldness. Indeed, it may require it.