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The Open Method of Co-ordination in Action

The European Employment and Social Inclusion Strategies – Second Printing

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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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CONCLUSION: The Open Method of Co-ordination in Action. Theoretical Promise, Empirical Realities, Reform Strategy 447

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CONCLUSION The Open Method of Co-ordination in Action Theoretical Promise, Empirical Realities, Reform Strategy 1 Jonathan ZEITLIN Introduction As we saw in the introduction, the Open Method of Co-ordination has aroused fierce controversies about its democratic legitimacy, practi- cal effectiveness, and implications for European integration. Yet as we also saw, much of the debate surrounding the OMC has suffered from a serious empirical deficit, relying on a narrow range of often outdated evidence, and based mainly on official printed sources. Drawing on the previous chapters of this book, as well as on other recent research (both published and unpublished), this concluding essay seeks to redress the balance by reviewing the available evidence about the OMC in action, focussing particularly on the operations and impact of the European Employment and Social Inclusion Strategies at national and subnational levels. In order to establish appropriate criteria for the empirical assess- ment in the body of the chapter (Part II), the next section (Part I) briefly revisits the core claims for the theoretical promise of the OMC as a new mode or instrument of EU governance advanced by its proponents. Although the resulting assessment, as we shall see, is positive in many respects, it also highlights some significant practical limitations that inhibit the realisation of the OMC's theoretical promise. The final section (Part Ill) therefore considers how to overcome the shortcomings revealed by the empirical assessment, and proposes a reflexive strategy A preliminary version of this concluding chapter was presented at the conference organised...

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