Gaby Umbach, Research Design: Variables, Theses, and Methodology in:

Gaby Umbach

Intent and Reality of the European Employment Strategy, page 31 - 35

Europeanisation of National Employment Policies and Policy-Making?

1. Edition 2009, ISBN print: 978-3-8329-4128-4, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-1247-0

Series: Studies on the European Union, vol. 1

Bibliographic information
Introduction 31 1.2 Research Design: Variables, Theses, and Methodology The EES, and the OMC applied with it, form the independent variable of the research design. The aim of the analysis of this independent variable is to learn, whether and in how far the EES has the potential to Europeanise member states’ domestic policy co-ordination structures and employment policies. The study combines both the bottom-up and the top-down perspective of the Europeanisation approach, aiming at a better understanding of the EES under the preconditions of the EMLG system. The focus of analysis is laid on the top-down direction of Europeanisation. However, aspects of bottom-up Europeanisation, leading to the official inception of the EES and to several reform waves, are not neglected. The analysis of the independent variable, therefore, also comprises the examination of the emergence and development of European employment policy co-ordination. Moreover, given that a clear categorisation of the EES’s Europeanisation potential is indispensable to draw conclusions on domestic adaptation, the analysis also includes an assessment of the EES’s structural/procedural aspects and portrays its underlying policy ideas/paradigm, i.e. its ‘policy ID’. As intervening variables, the research design identifies national political systems and domestic employment policy traditions of the UK and Germany. Moreover, relevant elements of inter- and supranational economic integration are analysed. These factors are supposed to include most important veto points for the adaptation of domestic political structures and employment policies, able to impact on the degree of Europeanisation at national level. It is of interest to analyse, in how far these intervening variables influence the EES’s Europeanisation impact in terms of pathdependence or transformation of domestic systems. In a first step, the institutional capacity of national political systems and core institutional arrangements to further or impede Europeanisation is analysed. Thereafter, an analysis of the underlying employment policy and welfare state traditions in the UK and Germany follows. Finally, the analysis of relevant elements of inter- and supranational economic integration, such as EMU, OECD, or IMF initiatives, completes the presentation of intervening variables. The dependent variables are formed by the development of British and German employment policy co-ordination structures and employment policies under the influence of the EES.1 In order to analyse the Europeanisation impact of the EES, the core phase of analysis is the first period of the ‘stand-alone’ EES from 1998 to 1 Especially within the analysis of policy adaptation caused by the EES the study focuses on “policy outputs (the policies adopted by governments)”, while the Europeanisation impact of the EES on the real “policy outcomes (the actual effects of a policy in terms of goal achievement)” (Holzinger/Knill 2005:776) is not analysed in-depth. This decision follows the perception of Holzinger and Knill, who state that “governments are agents reacting to problem pressure, experience gained elsewhere, pressure of powerful external actors, economic pressure, and legal obligation. Thus, governmental programmes are what counts. Policy outcomes, by contrast, are only indirectly related to the causal mechanisms of [policy change and] convergence, because they are usually affected by many intervening variables” (ibid.). Introduction 32 2002. However, the overall period under analysis covers also the second phase of the synchronised, streamlined, and welded EES from 2003 to 2005. During the examination of the dependent variables, all three domains of Europeanisation (domestic structures, public policy and cognitive/normative structures) are analysed in order to draw the broadest possible picture of potential national adaptation instigated by the EES. The analysis of the three Europeanisation domains within one study promises a valuable evaluation and classification of the degree of Europeanisation and of the impact of the EES on national systems and policies. With this choice of the dependent variables, the analysis of the EES is conducted within the three relevant dimensions (polity, politics, and policy) of political systems. Based on this research design, three sets of guiding assumptions and theses structure the analysis. The first and second thesis guide the empirical analysis, while the third thesis deals with the applicability of the Europeanisation approach to the analysis of the EES. The guiding assumptions start with the idea that the European polity, politics, and policy dimensions are steadily altering due to the changing patterns of the EMLG system. These changing patterns impact on the EU member states’ authoritative decision-making capacities. They, thus, exert strong adaptation pressure on the systemic and policy-related premises of EU member states. Moreover, and given that in the course of European integration supranationalisation processes reached politically most sensitive areas, limits of EU member states’ willingness to transfer sovereignty to the supranational level lead to the emergence of new political steering mechanisms. As a result of this development, the full supranationalisation of employment policies was and still is no feasible alternative to autonomous national policy-making. At the same time, however, the need for combined efforts is accepted by European policy-makers. Thus, new supranational policy instruments, such as the OMC, have been developed in order to guide national employment policy-making and to strengthen the EU’s economic performance and competitiveness without forcefully interfering into national sovereignty. The EES was one of the earliest responses to this need for new tools within the EU’s employment policy armoury. As a direct response to this need for coordination without full supranationalisation, the study does not assume it to remain irrelevant or without influence in the EU member states. Given that member states actively searched for such a new supranational policy instrument to improve their national employment performances, the EES is presumed to open new ways for policy and institutional adaptation by offering a platform for exchange of information and learning through comparison. In line with this assumption, it is, moreover, assumed to change power relations between actors involved in European decisionmaking at European level and to impact on decision-making within EU member states. Additionally, as it offers a new approach to policy co-ordination, it is presumed to exert adaptation pressures different from the classical ‘Community method’ and to impact on both the modification of institutional premises as well as on past policy paths. Finally, with its general approach, the EES is believed to enhance coherence of socio-economic policy co-ordination at EU level, uniting actors from formally sepa- Introduction 33 rate economic policy networks under one common roof. Moreover, at national level, elements of adaptation and convergence are assumed to be found, indicating at a discernible impact of the EES. In the light of these guiding assumptions, three (sets of) theses guide the analysis (cf. chapter 2.3): (1) Europeanisation of domestic structures: The EES has an impact on employment policy co-ordination processes and the interactions of actors involved in related policy co-ordination networks in the UK and Germany. (2) Europeanisation of public policy: Even though legally non-binding, the EES – by means of policy learning and exchange of best practices – has an, albeit varying, impact on domestic employment policies in the UK and Germany. (3) Applicability of the Europeanisation approach: The Europeanisation approach alone does not provide for sufficient analytical and explanative elements to analyse the potential impact of the EES applying the OMC. In order to generate results, the study methodically exploits three main sources. First, it consults and analyses existing academic literature and applies the results deriving from this state of the art literature to its analysis. Especially the theoreticoempirical frame of reference is based on this research method. A second methodological pillar is formed by semi-standardised interviews carried out during the preparatory phase of this study within the framework of the research project ‘Employment policies in Germany and the United Kingdom–The impact of Europeanisation’ (2002-2003) funded by the Anglo-German Foundation for the Study of the Industrial Society (AGF)2. These interviews were conducted with political actors directly involved in EES-related policy co-ordination at European and national level in the UK and Germany. They concentrated on political co-ordination processes related to the establishment of National Action Plans (NAPs), technical expertise and political decision-making, adaptation of political ideas and policy traditions, structure and openness of processes as well as the degree of domestic constraints. The results of these interviews especially fed into the empirical analysis of the study. Finally, content analysis of official and semi-official documents, parliamentary debates, speeches, press releases and internal papers provides for the third main research method. Especially the empirical analysis of employment policies is based on this approach examining inter alia the NAPs, the Joint Employment Reports (JERs), the Employment Guidelines (EGs), the Council recommendations, and the domestic governments’ priorities for each year in order to deliver insight into the development and adaptation of domestic employment policies. With this particular research design and approach, the study seeks to complement existing studies on the EES. Until 2002, many of the early studies on the topic concentrated especially on the emergence and development of the EES (cf. Busby 2005; 2 Cf. Ardy/Umbach 2004a, 2004b; Umbach 2003a, 2003b. Introduction 34 Goetschy 1999; Larsson 1995; Sciarra 1999; Steinle 2001; Tidow 1998a, 1998b), on the assessment of the novelty and on the potential benefits of the EES as a NMoG in the field of employment policy (cf. Bertozzi/Bonoli 2002; Goetschy 2000). Subsequent studies particularly focused on the evaluation of the first five years of the EES, on reforms to strengthen the EES in light of the evaluation results of its ‘standalone’ period3 and on single structural elements of the EES, such as peer review (cf. Casey/Gold 2005). They also took into account the relation between the EES and the European Structural Funds (cf. Hartwig 2002) and the comparison of the EES with other supranational surveillance processes (cf. Casey 2004; Dostal 2004; Schäfer 2004, 2005). One of the most frequently analysed topics related to the OMC and the EES is their ‘real’ benefit and the ambiguity of impact on supranational and national reforms and policy developments (cf. Borrás/Greve 2004:329; Trubek/Trubek 2005b:90). Within this scientific debate, the assessment of the OMC is twofold, presenting a broad range of partially contradictory evaluations (cf. Zeitlin 2005a:22). While, on the one hand, both the EES and the OMC are criticised for provoking only symbolic reactions (cf. Leibfried/Pierson 2000:273), they are also assessed to have the potential to re-structure and modernise EU member states (cf. Deppe/Felder/Tidow 2003). So, while they are, on the one hand, perceived to be powerful only in cases of strong commitment of the EU member states (cf. Kaiser/Prange 2003:1f.), they are, on the other hand, viewed to “respect the principle of subsidiarity, leaving the Member States in control of the policy” (Begg 2004:5) and as a policy means to foster ‘better governance’ (cf. Radaelli 2003b:8) and Europeanisation (cf. Börzel/Risse 2003:59) in areas, in which national differences and variations remain to prevail (cf. De Búrca/Zeitlin 2003:2; Hodson/Maher 2001:731; Kaiser/Prange 2003:2; Linsenmann/Meyer 2002:286; Radaelli 2003b:9 and 36; Trubek 2002:2; Wessels 2003c:8; Zeitlin 2005b:448). Most positively assessed are elements such as policy learning, deliberation, and exchange of best practice. They are perceived to support common problem perception and policy ideas (cf. Bulmer/Radaelli 2004:15; Hodson 2004:235; Knodt 2005:20; Laffan/Shaw 2005:9; Trubek/Trubek 2005b:84 and 91; Zeitlin 2005a:22). At the same time and regardless of the non-legally bindingness of the OMC, it is also regarded to provide for the grounds for spreading information, enhancing procedural transparency, monitoring and evaluating national policies (cf. Jachtenfuchs/Kohler-Koch 2003:16f.; Trubek 2002:3; Zeitlin 2005a:22). In contrast to this broad array of conceptual research on the OMC in general and on the evaluation of the EES, intensive in-depth country-specific analysis of the Europeanisation impact of the EES within EU member states and conceptual research on the applicability of the Europeanisation approach is underdeveloped. So, apart from the country-specific interim evaluations, such as the German RWI/ISG 3 Cf. Begg 2004; Best/Bossaert 2002; de la Porte/Pochet 2003, 2002b; Foden/Magnusson 2003; Goetschy 2003; Heidemann 2003; Jacobsson/Schmid 2003; Jacobsson/Vifell 2002; Langejan 2002a, 2002b; Lund 2002; Pochet 2002; Tucker 2003; Velluti 2002. Introduction 35 study (2002) and the British ECOTEC report (2002), prepared in the framework of the Commission’s official 2002 interim assessment of the EES, only few encompassing country-specific studies have been conducted so far. Yet, country-specific research on a smaller scale–in most cases contributions to edited volumes–is not missing (cf. Jacobsson 2005; Erhel/Mandin/Palier 2005; Ferrera/Sacchi 2005; Visser 2005; O’Donnell/Moss 2005). Also the contributions of Thiel (2004) on Germany and Hodson (2004) on the UK to the GOVECOR project (‘EU Governance by self co-ordination? Towards a collective gouvernement économique’, University of Cologne) have to be mentioned in this context as should be those of Büchs/Friedrich (2005) and Büchs (2005, 2007). Additionally, research projects such as ‘The Open Method of Co-ordination. A Way to modernize National Employment and Social Policies’ (2005-2007; University of Bamberg)–focusing on Germany, France and Italy–contribute to the need for further country-specific in-depth analysis, as did the GOVECOR project by concentrating “on the combined impact of the legal provisions for the coordination of employment policy as set out by the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Stability and Growth Pact” ( on developments within EU member states. The present study seeks to meet this demand for further country-specific in-depth as well as conceptual analysis of the Europeanisation impact of the EES within the EMLG system. 1.3 Structure and Division: The Road Map for the Train of Thought After chapter 1 introduced the research subject and design, chapter 2 continues this analysis’ storyline by presenting the overall theoretico-empirical frame of reference, in which the analysis is embedded. This frame interlinks the theoretical foundation of analysis with empirical elements and delivers explanative elements to elucidate the analysis’ results. It, moreover, develops an analytical matrix to which the empirical analysis will refer to. Chapter 2 starts by analysing the governance approach and the EMLG concept. This analysis introduces the systemic premises, functional characteristics and structural as well as procedural specifics of the EMLG as the core background condition for Europeanisation. The EMLG is introduced as a central tessera of what is known as the impact of European integration on national political processes and policies: the Europeanisation of member states’ institutionalprocedural set ups and their domestic public policies. The part on EMLG leads towards the analysis of the emergence and expansion of new policy instruments, and in particular the OMC, in search for the feasible in-between globalising demands and national reservations. By turning towards NMoG, the theoretico-empirical frame builds the bridge to the EES, applying the OMC in the field of employment policy, and to its impact on EU member states. NMoG approaches especially add to the analysis by providing explanation for the relation between European integration, the evolution of new forms of governance within the EU multilevel system and national adaptation. In order to better understand this particular NMoG, its characteristic

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Mit ihren spezifischen Merkmalen als neues Politikinstrument – wie etwa ihrem rechtlich nicht bindenden Charakter, dem Ziel des gegenseitigen Politiklernens durch Austausch bester Praktiken oder gemeinsamen Evaluierungsprozessen – stellt die Europäische Beschäftigungsstrategie (EBS) und die mit ihr Anwendung findende Offene Methode der Koordinierung (OMK) beschäftigungspolitische Akteure in der EU vor die neuen Herausforderungen von Politik-Koordinierung, die die Politikgestaltung im europäischen Mehrebenensystem neu prägen.

Das vorliegende Buch beschäftigt sich intensiv mit diesen unterschiedlichen Facetten der EBS und ihrer Wirkung. Es geht dabei über bisherige Einzelstudien zur EBS hinaus und befasst sich nicht nur mit deren Entstehung, Entwicklung und Merkmalen. Es kontrastiert vielmehr den eigenen Anspruch der EBS mit ihrer politischen Realität und untersucht theoretisch hoch reflektiert deren Einfluss auf Politik-Koordinierungsstrukturen, Beschäftigungspolitiken und zugrunde liegenden Ideen sowie deren Zusammenspiel mit anderen wirtschaftspolitischen Bereichen. Neben der EU-Ebene dienen Großbritannien und Deutschland als Fallbeispiele für mitgliedstaatliche Anpassungsprozesse. Das Buch verankert seine Wirkungsanalyse sehr fundiert in der wissenschaftstheoretischen Debatte um Europäisierung und Politikkonvergenz, um deren Anwendbarkeit im Falle der EBS kritisch zu analysieren. Es komplettiert damit Europäisierungsstudien zu regulativer Politik durch die Analyse des Einflusses weicher Politik-Koordinierung im europäischen Mehrebenensystem.