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The Missing Puzzle Piece: reconciling labour migration and the European social model

24 March 2022 | 10:0018:00

| Spoken language: English

“I am proud of our unique European social market economy. It is what allows our economies to grow – and what drives poverty and inequality to fall. It ensures that social fairness and welfare come first […] I want Europe to strive for more when it comes to social fairness and prosperity. This is our Union’s founding promise.”
Ursula von der Leyen*

On March 24th [10:00 – 17:00] Studio Europa Maastricht presents ‘The Missing Puzzle Piece: reconciling labour migration and the European social model’ as a part of the Jean Monnet RELAY project. This event aims to explore how we can utilise the values from Europe’s unique social model and strengthen the European Pillar of Social Rights to improve the inclusion of labour migrants in our societies, stop labour exploitation of migrant workers and ultimately provide better labour market outcomes and improve social cohesion for everyone.

The European social model and its social market economy embody a set of values and laws that focus on two complementary rather than competing ideals – that we can support a market economy and competitiveness, while taking steps to eliminate inequalities and protect individuals from economic insecurity and social exclusion. Economic progress should not be at the expense of our social principles, this is a key value in our European way of life. This is enshrined in the Treaty of the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which states that the Union ‘shall take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health’ (Article 9). Alongside this, the European social model places importance on industrial relations and collective bargaining. Despite declining union density, it is still comparatively high when compared with the rest of the world and is protected in the EU Charter (and given legal force in Article 6(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Union (TEU)).

Despite a recently renewed interest in a Social Europe and general commitments to strengthen the European Social Pillar, very little has been done about ensuring one of the most precarious groups in our societies is included in the discussion – namely, labour migrants. Tackling forms of precarious employment and exploitation, integrating labour migrants more successfully into our economies and our social security systems, and removing barriers to accessing information is crucial for ensuring our societies function well and that we provide fair and equal treatment for all. By improving working and social conditions for labour migrants we can support their willingness to take entrepreneurial risks, learn new skills, and enrich our societies.

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10.00-10.30 | Registration

10.30-10.45 | Welcome and introduction: Prof. Mariolina Eliantonio (Director UM  Campus Brussels)

10:45-12:30 | Session 1 – Free Movement of Labour, Precarious Employment, and Social Rights 


  • Dr. Anita Heindlmaier (University of Salzburg)
  • Mattia Di Salvo (CEPS)
  • Giacomo Boffi (Leiden University)

12:30-13:30 | Lunch break

13:30-14:45 | Session 2 – Labour migration in the Dutch context


  • Sylvana van den Braak (research journalist at Investico)
  • Edwin Atema (Head of enforcement and research on transport sector at the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions, FNV)

14:45-15:00 | Coffee break

15:00-16:00 | Session 3 – High Level Dialogue on Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion


  • Joost Korte (Director-General of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion)
  • Jeroen Lenaers (CDA Member of the European Parliament from Limburg)
  • Wouter Zwysen (Senior Researcher, European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)

16:00-16:15 | Concluding remarks

16:15-17:00 |  Networking drinks

What is RELAY?  

RELAY is a project that aims at discussing the European Commission’s political guidelines and work programme with a wide and diverse array of stakeholders. It is coordinated by Maastricht University Campus Brussels and includes several academic and non-academic partners. Studio Europa Maastricht is a key partner in the project.

Announced by Ursula von der Leyen as a part of her political guidelines for the next European Commission (2019-2024) 

** This programme is organised by Studio Europa Maastricht. The European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) and the European Commission are not responsible for the content of this document or any use that may be made of the information it contains.


24 March 2022


Studio Europa Maastricht


UM Campus Brussels
Avenue de Tervueren 153
Brussels, Brussels 1150 Belgium
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