The Italian Government has proposed the introduction of a European Unemployment Benefit Scheme, applicable to all the members of the Eurozone. The benefit would provide 40% of previous salary for 6-8 months. The purpose of the benefit scheme would be to provide solidarity when countries experience a surge of unemployment; the amount of benefit payable in a country would be limited to 200% of its contribution to the scheme.
I suspect the scheme is a non-starter. The Italians have shrewdly put the proposal in a way which is not subject to treaty change or isolated vetoes, but it will be hard to get this past the presumption of subsidiarity. Some of current arrangements within the Eurozone are based on independent and non-governmental arrangements – the Ghent system, based on trades unions, is used in Denmark, Sweden and Finland (see this link by Clasen and Viebrock), and the French scheme, Unédic, is administered by a ‘convention’ of employers and trades unions. The Italian scheme is noteworthy, however, in three ways. It shows that there is still continued interest in promoting the idea of a Social Europe. It reinforces the view that there is now a two-speed Europe, the Eurozone and the rest. And it shows how very far the UK is out of step with the rest of the European Union, both in the objectives and in the level of benefit offered.