This article engages with the European Union’s continuing strategy, in the context of the economic crisis, of addressing the human rights deficit of the current economic model by promoting a multifarious normative linkage between the economic, market-driven sphere and the human rights-anchored social sphere. The article looks into issues of normativity associated with the EU linkage agenda and interrogates some of its institutional and conceptual elements. It contends that, while the linkage discourse depends on a multitude of actors and factors, the EU encompasses a number of features that – by entropy as much as by design – facilitate an interrogation of the normative set-up that currently holds between human rights and the market mechanisms. The first part of the article addresses the linkage or ‘trade and’ debate that carries distinct nuances within contemporary international economic law. In the second part, the potential as well as the challenges brought about by the EU as a socio-political entity highlight the bringing together of competing normative issues. Lastly, the article considers the EU conceptual inroads in developing the necessary tools for consolidating and addressing the linkage agenda. Through this analysis, the article highlights an essential, dynamic nexus and a search for normative synchronisation between the economic development model and the social model. It is argued that coupling this nexus with a conceptual rethinking can increase the chances of matching the so far rhetorical persuasiveness of the linkage discourse with the so far elusive conceptual coherence and policy consistency.