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The Open Method of Co-ordination in Action

The European Employment and Social Inclusion Strategies – Second Printing


Edited By Jonathan Zeitlin and Philippe Pochet

No development in European integration has aroused greater interest or greater controversy in recent years than the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC), which has become an increasingly broadly applied instrument of EU governance since its invention as part of the «Lisbon Strategy» in 2000. Yet it is widely agreed that the debates surrounding the OMC suffer from a serious empirical deficit. This book, based on an international research network organised by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Observatoire social européen, and the SALTSA Programme, focuses on two highly developed OMC processes, the European Employment and Social Inclusion Strategies, concentrating on their operation and influence at national and subnational levels. It comprises a combination of national and comparative studies, covering eight countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) and four transversal themes (hard and soft law, participation, gender equality, activation). These studies are framed by a historical overview of the OMC’s place in the construction of Social Europe, and by a synthetic conclusion, which assesses the available evidence on the OMC in action, and proposes a reflexive reform strategy for realising its theoretical promise as a new mode of EU governance.


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PART I THEORETICAL AND HISTORICAL OVERVIEWS This page intentionally left blank CHAPTER 1 The Open Method of Co-ordination and the Construction of Social Europe A Historical Perspective Philippe POCHET Introduction 1 The number of papers, articles and books on the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC) and on new form(s) of governance in the EU is growing each day. If the OMC covers different fields (economic policy, research, education, migration, for a review see Rodrigues, 2004), it is its application to social policies (employment, pensions, exclusion, health care) that has attracted most interest. These developments were not expected. Until very recently, achievements in European social policy were generally considered as - at best - weak. Most commen- tators underlined the imbalance between economic and monetary integ- ration on the one hand and the social integration on the other. The diffi- culties of adopting a positive integration agenda (common regulation) were underlined in a context of increasing diversity in terms of welfare state arrangements and developments. The internal market had led to an "embedded liberalism". Many predicted that fiscal competition, "social dumping" and "social tourism" created by European economic integra- tion (the single market and the single currency) would imply a race to the bottom in social policy, social protection systems being obliged to adapt through retrenchment and structural adjustment policies. It was also argued that this detrimental impact could be reinforced by the European Court of Justice. Some of its decisions have removed obsta- cles to a free market. In...

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