The EU has become a loose kind ofsocial federation, a fact that has not been adequately taken into account due to the peculiarities ofthe Maastricht strategy for monetary integration. Yet, a new approach to the economic theory offederalism is required ifone wants to analyze the most pressing issues ofEU social policy. The social insurance view of redistribution and stabilization provides for such an approach. This view supports laboratory federalism in which it is the role ofthe EU Commission to contain systems competition in order to preserve "stability in diversity." The role ofthe EU level would be to promote horizontal and vertical learning processes and to make sure that stability concerns ofthe EU are taken seriously by member countries' governments. The minimum requirements framework for social policy that the EU Commission has adopted must be taken as a point of departure, even though it is a less than satisfactory approach from this point of view. Laboratory standardization, in contrast, would not set specific minimum requirements but meta-standards that protect systems functions and safeguard against systems failures.