This paper has a rather explorative nature since it examines how a Social Europe could look like, politically and institutionally. Such a Social Europe is not thought out of the box (i.e. outside the Lisbon Treaty) but based on the current situation of op-outs, asymmetries and institutional novelties (particularly the Fiscal Compact) while at the same time adding a clear normative dimension: making the EU more democratic and accountable to its member states and its citizens.
What will be developed is a EU that has freed itself from the one size fits all but instead leaves room for those member states that want to go further with European integration. This would allow some member states to build a genuine union (financial, economic as well as political and social) while other member states would have the choice not to do so. In other words, member states should be held accountable: either they support further integration or they stay outside of it. This decision should not be Brussels-made but offered to the public in the member states concerned (by elections or referenda). It is then legitimate for a country not to take part in some areas of integration like it is legitimate after public consultation to join at a later stage. In fact the EU is already experienced with such a system. This proposal would make these asymmetries (and the ways in which they are handled by the institutions) official and part of a new institutional and political architecture.