Highlights from the TRANSWEL Project’s International Workshop on “Transnational Social Citizenship in an Age of Uncertainty: Migration and Social Protection in Europe and Beyond”, Lübbenau Castle, Lübbenau, Germany, 26/27 April 2018

 by Jana Fingarova

The nexus of migration and social protection continues to be at the heart of current academic and media debates about the future of contemporary globalized societies. In the past decades, cross-border migration across Europe and other world regions has contributed to the emergence of various forms of transnational social membership, with post-national, cosmopolitan and multi-scalar forms as its variants. The aim of the international workshop of the TRANSWEL project was to discuss facets of social membership, transnational social protection and migration. The workshop brought together social scientists whose research focuses on the nexus of social security and migration in and beyond Europe from a global and transnational perspective.

The first panel of the workshop, “European Social Citizenship between Official Rhetoric and Everyday Administrative Practice”, provided important insights into and different perspectives on the concept of European social citizenship. In his opening speech, Martin Seeleib-Kaiser (University of Tübingen) questioned the main premises of EU social citizenship, noting that the huge differences among the member states when it comes to social spending may lead to the paradox of having “full rights to nothing”, which practically excludes mobile citizens of Eastern and Southern European EU countries from access to welfare. Eleonore Kofman (Middlesex University) addressed the very likely possibility that intra-EU migration and mobility may diversify in the coming years, stressing the potential increase in secondary migration of non-EU nationals and the necessity of drawing attention to formal aspects of social security, such as residence conditions and social protection entitlements. Presenting the overall scope of the TRANSWEL project, Anna Amelina (Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus–Senftenberg) addressed the hierarchical boundaries to social citizenship in the European context, with a special focus on the role of requirements for formal employment and long-term residency.

The second panel, “Transnational Approaches to the Dialectics between Formal and Informal Social Protection”, addressed some broader topics from perspectives less often used in the field. For example, Jean-Michel Lafleur (University of Liège) provided a conceptual framework for analysing the impact of diasporas on healthcare arrangements in countries of emigration, and Elisabeth Scheibelhofer and Nora Regös (University of Vienna) focused on the complexity of the “labyrinths” of European social security that impede EU citizens’ access to and portability of entitlements despite migrants’ “welfare learning”.

The third panel, “The Social Question Revisited: Social Citizenship and Inequalities in the Enlarged Europe” was dedicated to the question of how we might conceptualize the ‘European social question’. Emma Carmel (University of Bath) argued that given that the rights of EU movers are framed by multiple constraints, the term ‘privileges’ would be more appropriate than ‘rights’ in the EU context. The questions Alice Welsh (University of York) and Nora Ratzmann (LSE) then addressed in their presentations were: Are EU citizens economically active enough to ‘deserve’ rights? And what about the exclusion of economically inactive migrants from welfare?

The last two panels, “Social Citizenship, (Posted) Work and Social Change” and “The Multiplicity of Boundary-Making and Exclusions in European Social Citizenship”, addressed a number of current topics. Nathan Lilie (University of Jyväskylä) talked about the situation of posted workers, who work in international contexts in which ‘normal’ industrial relations do not exist, and labour rights abuses and pressure on national working conditions become highly politicized. Comparing refugees’ social protection arrangements in several countries, Peo Hansen (Linköping University) argued that if states started to invest more in municipalities, the money would not simply disappear, because most of it would be spent on housing and would go to private businesses rather than to individuals (refugees). Ann Runnfors and Maarja Saar (Södertörn University) concluded with a presentation of their research findings concerning dominant discourses of welfare deservingness in relation to intra-EU mobility.