The European Union (EU) has consistently profi led itself as not only a political and economic but also a social union, as the harbinger of a social Europe. It claims to differ from the rest of the world because of its ‘European social model’ (ESM), thanks to which – or so it argues – Europe enjoys a distinct social quality. Social progress and social cohesion are high on the EU agenda, complementing, in theory at least, political and economic integration. High social standards are defended from both a normative and an economic point of view, the claim being that good social policy is good economic policy. This social self-assessment places the EU on moral high ground and infl uences its attitude towards the rest of the world. In today’s world, the EU claims a normative role for itself, which includes the external dissemination of its social values and standards with the aim of raising social standards in third countries. The European Commission argues, for example, that ‘The EU has a duty, not only towards its citizens and those of the new member states, but also towards its present and future neighbours to ensure continuing social cohesion and economic dynamism’ (European Commission 2003: 3; see also Chapter 4).