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The principle of subsidiarity and the social policy of the European Community.

Spicker, Paul


Paul Spicker


The idea of ’subsidiarity’ has been gaining influence within the European Community. ’Subsidiarity’ is based on a view of society in which responsibilities are conditioned by the closeness of people’s relationships. Intervention at higher levels of society has to be seen as subsidiary to the obligations of smaller social units. Applied more narrowly in the context of the Community, subsidiarity has been taken to refer to a functional division of administrative responsibilities, although at times the principle is referred back to its wider usage; it implies an emphasis on decentralization and diversity. The gradual expansion of European interventions in national social policies has depended on a strategy of developing precedents and competence. The idea of subsidiarity, used virtually as a synonym for national sovereignty, has been enlisted to oppose this trend. Although the principle does limit the scope of a supranational organization, there is still scope for a European social policy which establishes principles and develops other kinds of solidarity. If, moreover, the issue is genuinely one of subsidiarity, it implies not only that the European Commission must limit and devolve its powers, but also that wherever possible national governments should do the same.


SPICKER, P. 1991. The principle of subsidiarity and the social policy of the European Community. Journal of European social policy [online], 1(1), pages 3-14. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 28, 1991
Online Publication Date Feb 28, 1991
Publication Date Feb 28, 1991
Deposit Date Sep 12, 2013
Publicly Available Date Sep 12, 2013
Journal Journal of European social policy
Print ISSN 0958-9287
Electronic ISSN 1461-7269
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 1
Issue 1
Pages 3-14
Public URL


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