Gaby Umbach, Europeanisation of Domestic Employment Policy Co-ordination Structures: Adaptation and Change Leading to Institutional Isomorphism? in:

Gaby Umbach

Intent and Reality of the European Employment Strategy, page 158 - 165

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
Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 158 rary democracy subscribes to a single set of principles, doctrines and structures” (March/Olsen 2005:17), these elements influence each others’ impact at the national level. 2.3 Guiding Assumptions and Theses: Harvesting the Conceptual Vineyard The theoretico-empirical frame of reference so far provided the study with the conceptual vineyard, in which its analytical backbone roots. The aim of the present subchapter is to harvest the elements presented and to distil them into the study’s guiding assumptions and theses that structure the empirical analysis and that will be revisited in its final conclusions. The study’s guiding assumptions on the Europeanisation impact of the EES focus on: • the adaptation of institutional patterns and policy ideas at domestic and partially also at EU level; • the aims, means, degree and direction of the Europeanisation impact of the EES; and • the differential Europeanisation impact of the EES in the UK and Germany. In a first rapprochement, the European polity, politics, and policy dimensions were generally assumed to be in constant flux. This constant flux is caused by the logics and course of European integration, by the changing patterns of EU governance within a polycentric multilevel political system, and by the further development of EMLG policy networks as its specific structural and procedural elements (cf. above). These characteristics are permanently adapted to the changing requirements of vertically and horizontally interlinked EMLG decision-making. In parallel, consensusoriented policy-making structures, procedures and processes as well as institutions and instruments are amended and adapted if necessary–albeit in a path-depend, partially slow, and sometimes insufficient manner given that it is easier for policymakers to, however poorly, adapt existing institutions, than to create new ones. As EMLG policy-making is increasingly interlinked, exclusive authoritative decisionmaking by the nation state is no longer an option of interweaved supranational decision-making. So, shared decision-making competences and the interaction of different political levels and an increasing number of actors in a multitude of overlapping and loosely coupled arenas at different political levels pose strong adaptation pressures on the overall systemic premises of the EU system and of its member states. Due to this increasing functional, structural, and procedural interweaveness of EML policy-making, European provisions impact on changes at both the supranational and (sub)national level and provide for a leeway of change and adaptation of political levels and actors involved in EMLG (cf. chapter 2.1.1). Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 159 In the course of adaptation to the increasing demand for supranational cooperation, European integration landed at certain borders of member states’ willingness to transfer sovereignty to the supranational level. Integration spill-overs reached politically sensitive areas, in which EU member states are highly reluctant to entirely sacrifice national political autonomy, such as socio-economic policy-making (cf. chapter Having in mind the above outlined preconditions of the EMLG system, the characteristics of the OMC, and the aspects of Europeanisation, it is furthermore assumed that the EES did not remain irrelevant or without influence on the two EU member states under analysis. It is rather assumed to be in the position to initiate policy and institutional change by offering a platform for exchange of ideas and policy learning as most important engines of (domestic) change and adaptation. Yet, as the OMC and the EES offer a different approach to policy-making than old modes of governance (cf. chapter, its Europeanisation impact is generally assumed to likely differ from that of old modes of governance not only in terms of policy change, but also with a view to the adaptation of institutional designs. Given that no ready-made implementation menu is presented by the EES, EU member states are expected to opt for a pick-and-choose strategy that leads towards domestic change and policy transfer via synthesis and influence (cf. chapter Moreover, as EU member states are assumed to follow this pick-and-choose strategy in order to reform domestic employment policies, the EES is expected to have differential impact on the UK and Germany. This differential Europeanisation impact is also assumed to be nurtured by different domestic systemic preconditions and dissimilar effects of diverse intervening variables (cf. chapter 2.2). The UK, due to a low degree of misfit between the EES and domestic public policy traditions, is presumed to encounter fewer problems adapting to the employment policy characteristics of the EES. In contrast to that, Germany is assumed to more easily cope with the structural and procedural implications of the EES given that low institutional misfit with the overall EMLG approach is presumed. Taking these general assumptions as a starting point, the present study is based on two theses related to the empirical analysis of the Europeanisation of policy coordination structures and policy content in the UK and Germany. A third thesis deals with expectations concerning the overall Europeanisation impact of the EES and with the applicability of the Europeanisation approach on the analysis of potential change induced by the EES. As also the bottom-up perspective of Europeanisation will be taken into consideration within the empirical analysis, the three theses will not only focus on assumptions related to adaptation at national level. They will additionally formulate assumptions on supranational developments. Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 160 2.3.1 Europeanisation of Domestic Employment Policy Co-ordination Structures: Adaptation and Change Leading to Institutional Isomorphism? The first thesis focuses on the influence of the EES on the polity/politics dimension of employment policy co-ordination within the UK and Germany and on their interaction with the EU-level PCN. It focuses on the question whether similar or different effects of the EES can be witnessed in the two countries. Furthermore, it focuses on the degree to which different effects can be attributed to underlying domestic policymaking and institutional traditions or to different systemic premises (defined above as intervening variables; cf. chapter 2.2). Related to this latter aspect, the EES is assumed to have a higher Europeanisation impact in the UK than in Germany given that the UK is expected to show a higher degree of institutional misfit with the structural and procedural implications of the EES and the OMC (cf. chapter 3). As the UK is characterised by a strongly centralised polity and politics dimension with a low level of social partner integration (cf. chapter, the EMLG approach of the EES-PCN is assumed to be more distant from British domestic institutional practices and traditions than in the case of Germany. Thus, higher institutional misfit is assumed to transform into stronger adaptation pressure that is expected to lead to discernible institutional change in order to better cope with the EES. As German institutional traditions, with a strongly de-centralised polity and politics dimension as well as a profound national tradition of social partner integration (cf. chapter, are more in line with the EES and the overall EMLG approach, institutional misfit is assumed to be low with no strong adaptation pressure to result from it. Based on this overall focus, the first thesis assumes: The EES has an, albeit varying, impact on employment policy co-ordination structures and the interaction of actors involved in the related policy co-ordination network within the UK and Germany. Domestic involvement in the supranational policy co-ordination cycle fosters institutional adaptation and change leading towards institutional isomorphism. Due to the economic effects of internationalisation as well as the interrelatedness of international markets and national economies, supranational socio-economic and employment policy-making and co-ordination became an integral part of national policy-making of EU member states. In the course of this development, they also became embedded in the framework of European socio-economic governance structures in order to better react to common challenges. Due to the systemic premises and the functional characteristics of the EMLG system (cf. chapter and, following new institutionalist assumptions, and given that it integrates diverse actors of the different political levels in a new EES-related PCN, it is, thus, assumed that this interlinkage of domestic employment policy co-ordination with the supranational level structurally and procedurally impacts on all political levels and Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 161 all relevant political actors involved. So, it is supposed that the EES, due to its formal integration into the European treaty framework and by establishing a new institutional structure for its ‘implementation’, has an Europeanisation impact on the setting up and construction of a special non-hierarchical PCN of actors involved in the EES at European level and in the preparation of the NAPs at the national level. This Europeanisation impact is supposed to challenge not only the relation between individual/collective behaviour and domestic/supranational institutions. It is also assumed to exert adaptation pressure on power constellations/distribution and on policy ideas/traditions of domestic employment policy co-ordination. The new supranational EES-PCN is assumed to differ from ‘traditional’ EMLG policy networks (cf. chapter as the OMC impacts on the re-arrangement of overall network patterns. First of all, given that the main function of the EES-PCN shifts from policy-making to policy co-ordination, exchange of best practices, policy learning and implementation control, central and hierarchical steering is supposed to be substituted by softer co-ordination procedures. Additionally, as the EES interlinks aspects of employment, labour market, socio-economic policies (cf. chapter 3.2) and unites actors of different policy co-ordination cycles, the EES-PCN is assumed to go beyond classical employment policy networks (both at national and at supranational level). This interlinkage is presumed to impact on the adaptation and change of national institutional set ups given that these are expected to react to the European provision. The circle of politically relevant actors is expected to broaden. At the same time, due to the overall low number of actors involved, a low degree of fluctuation and dynamics is envisaged to be found. This effect is expected to lead to a certain seclusion of the EES-PCN. Institutional, organisational, bureaucratic and neo-corporatist actors are assumed to dominate the network as no ‘real’ lobbying is expected to take place due to missing consequences in case of non-compliance. Following the logics of the OMC, the European Commission, the Council, and the European Council are supposed to be the dominant actors of the co-ordination cycle at supranational level. Yet, the distribution of power among them is likely to differ from the classical Community method. With the establishment of this new and specific PCN at European level, uniting actors from different policy domains, the EES requires participation of all relevant national actors, which–by integration into new supranational structures–are expected to be further Europeanised. They are assumed to increasingly shift their attention towards the EU level and adapt to the new structures and procedures. Furthermore, new groups of actors, such as especially social partners, are supposed to be given substantial access to the new supranational EES-PCN. The OMC in employment policy co-ordination is, hence, assumed to show clear signs of shift from statecentred hierarchical co-ordination towards non-hierarchical multilevel policy coordination of private and public actors within a public-private PCN. It is presumed to diffuse rather than concentrate political responsibility and ownership of the EES as actors and political arenas are guided by the logics of a non-hierarchical multilevel institutional set up. Employment policy co-ordination processes are, additionally, assumed to become more unstructured and open to a multitude of influences at Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 162 different political levels given that actors are presumed to use diverse access points to influence the co-ordination process. As the EES is expected to interlink supranational and national employment policy actors, arenas, policy-making communities, and stakeholders in this particular way, it is assumed to exert adaptation pressure on existing domestic institutional set ups. By doing so, the EES is presumed to feed back into national political systems of EU member states. Instigated by a certain misfit with existing domestic arrangements, it is, therefore, expected to foster structural and procedural adaptation to the institutional logics of this new mode of governance in order to comply with supranational policy co-ordination requirements. This effect is assessed to result in the Europeanisation of domestic employment policy co-ordination structures and to impact on different dimensions of national institutions. This impact is supposed to lead to the Europeanisation of domestic and cognitive/normative structures (cf. chapter of national employment policy coordination, interlinking them with the EES-PCN given that EU member states have to adapt to the OMC’s inherent institutional, structural, and procedural logics. Concerning cognitive/normative structures, the EES is supposed to lead to Europeanisation by drawing attention to its institutional logics and by creating the above described new, rather narrow, but stable PCN to jointly develop a new employment policy style and solutions in a deliberative and consensus-oriented way. Given the underlying co-ordination logics of the EES, traditional negotiation techniques, such as bargaining and package deals, are assumed to be no means of interaction. The major aim of employment policy co-ordination within the EES-PCN is assumed to differ from regulatory policy networks as no legally binding decisions are to be made or implemented. Deliberation and exchange of ideas are thus expected to be dominant aims that add to the emergence of an EES-related epistemic community/ advocacy coalition across EU member states’ boarders (cf. chapter As a result of these challenges, national divergences are expected to decrease and similarities to increase via integration and offer as main mechanisms for institutional change. Yet, a mimetic source of institutional change is assessed to most likely prevail as the OMC applies a combination of these mechanisms for institutional change by integration and by offer (cf. chapter So, as national institutions increasingly interact with each other and with European institutions, it is assumed that the domestic institutional set ups and employment policy co-ordination structures/procedures will adapt to the provisions of the EES. As they are ever-more exposed to each other, they are presumed to develop similar features of organisational patterns, structures, procedures, practices, and resources. So, following the logics of institutional isomorphism, EMLG employment policy co-ordination through the EES is expected to initiate change of formal and informal institutions, including their underlying ideas, that is, cognitive/normative structures. Institutional convergence is assumed to follow from these logics of institutional isomorphism. The overall Europeanisation impact of the EES is not assumed to be influenced by the legally non-binding character of the instrument. Nevertheless, this nonbindingness opens a leeway for national adaptation manoeuvres, which national Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 163 actors are expected to use to adjust alongside their own national institutional traditions, logics, and paths. In order to test this first thesis, it will be analysed whether a new and special EES- PCN of political actors has been established at supranational level that impacts on domestic employment policy co-ordination (cf. chapter 4). This analysis focuses on the development of an institutional set up at European level that unites main actors of several institutions and policy networks to establish a new European socioeconomic governance mix. Furthermore, it will be of interest to examine, whether common developments within the UK and Germany can be witnessed that lead political actors to increasingly transfer attention to the European arena. Nevertheless and given that ‘policy determines politics’ the same way polity impacts on politics and policies, institutional change is not only expected to be inspired by the new procedural form of open policy co-ordination enshrined in the EES. Taking up sociological institutionalist assumptions, it is also assumed to be influenced by the change of underlying policy ideas and paradigms put forward by the Lisbon agenda, fostering a more general change of orientation of national and European political actors towards the supranational level by increased policy learning efforts (cf. chapter 3). It will be of special interest to analyse, whether and in how far employment policy co-ordination processes and procedures at national level change according to the provisions of the EES and in how far they reflect the PCN set up at European level. If change and adaptation are to be witnessed, European co-ordination measures, experts’ exchange, and community-building will prove to be successfully impacting on national level policy co-ordination. National officials will engage in the European EES-PCN–even if they will do so mainly strategically, as supposed by rational choice institutionalism. Going beyond rational choice institutionalist assumptions, it is, yet, expected that they embrace the underlying structural-procedural philosophy of the EES, leading to the Europeanisation of related procedures and processes at national levels. Thus, institutional adaptation and behavioural change are presumed to evolve symbiotically (cf. chapter It is additionally assumed that nearly all relevant national state and non-state actors will benefit from the opportunity to make their voices heard at European level. They will more powerfully be able to influence national policy agendas and to profit from their European experiences and exchange with other EU member states’ actors. European policy co-ordination will, thus, lead to compliance with the EES at national level. Indicators for adaptation to the institutional logic of the EES and, thus, for the Europeanisation of domestic structures are: Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 164 Table 20: Indicators for Adaptation to the Institutional Logic of the EES UK D Compliance with the official timetable of the EES Delivery of all documents and information required by the EU level Integration of all relevant actors at all relevant levels Structural and procedural re-arrangement of existing domestic institutional set ups Adaptation to the institutional model of the EES-PCN Change of underlying cognitive/normative structures of institutional arrangements Source: Own compilation (weak = -; medium weak = +; medium = ++; medium strong = +++; strong = ++++). If no adaptation or change will be found, the analysis will reveal a high degree of domestic institutional stability. Such a result would indicate at a strong pathdependence of domestic structures and institutional arrangements that are most deeply rooted in strong national traditions, that is, persistent domestic and cognitive/normative structures. In this case, national officials and governments would not use the opportunity of institutional learning offered by the EES. Main barriers for adaptation would be strong domestic veto points (cf. chapter 2.2.1), such as mal coordination of the EES at national administrative level due to poor governmental coordination mechanisms, differences in social partner representation structures or in the practice of social partner integration into the policy-making process at national level. As a consequence, integrated leadership, a centralised polity, ‘trimmed’ pluralism, and few domestic veto points would not have facilitated adaptation and Europeanisation in the UK, and fragmented leadership, a de-centralised polity, ‘corporatist style’ pluralism, and several domestic veto points would have hampered adaptation and Europeanisation in Germany (cf. chapter 2.2.1). So, in this case of no change, domestic institutional capacities to produce change would be weak in both countries. A rather high number of powerful domestic veto points and formal institutions, accompanied by underdeveloped administrative capacities and policy coordination mechanisms, would not have provided governments with conducive resources to foster change. The falsification of this first guiding thesis would invite to draw the conclusion of British and German systemic preconditions and traditions being powerful intervening variables to minimise or even bloc the Europeanisation effects of the EES. Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 165 2.3.2 Europeanisation of Employment Policies: Policy Transfer and Diffusion Leading to ?-Convergence? The second guiding thesis touches upon the public policy dimension of supranational employment policy co-ordination. It focuses on the overall development of employment policies in the UK and Germany alongside the EES. It assumes that, by means of policy learning, the strategy has an Europeanisation impact on domestic policies of the two countries. The soft elements of the EES are expected to stimulate learning processes as well as the development of common understandings, perceptions, and ideas concerning future employment policy-making. As a result, adaptation of domestic employment policy styles, logics, instruments and problem-solving approaches are presumed to be witnessed. In the extreme case, the destabilisation of existing traditions and understandings, new ways of domestic employment policy deliberation, decentralised experimentation and the collective definition of employment policy approaches would be the result (cf. chapter Thus, national employment policies of both countries would show signs of change and adaptation to the general ‘policy ID’ of the EES, that is, ?-convergence (cf. chapter 3.2.2, and As a result, they would, in the long-run, increase proximity not only to the European model, but also in a cross-national perspective, that is, ?-convergence. In parallel, cognitive/normative structures of national employment policy traditions would be open to change. Yet, the second guiding thesis also assumes a differential Europeanisation impact in the UK and Germany given that employment policy misfit in the case of the former is expected to be lower than in the case of the latter. The overall British employment policy approach is presumed to be closer to the allegedly more liberal European policy paradigm (cf. chapter 3.2). So, the EES is expected to have a lower impact on fundamental domestic policy change leading towards Europeanisation given that no such change is needed to improve domestic employment policies. Contrary to this assumption on the UK, the EES is supposed to have a greater impact on German employment policies. Based on more substantial policy misfit caused by diverse national welfare state traditions (cf. chapter, the country is assumed to be in need to adapt its domestic employment policy approach to the EES more fundamentally than the UK in order to match with the overall ideas of European policy co-ordination. This effect is expected to lead to a considerable degree of Europeanisation of German domestic employment policies. Policy-makers will make use of the opportunity structure provided by the EES to enhance national reforms (cf. chapter and 2.2.2). Additionally, due to a set of unfavourable intervening variables (such as EMU membership, structural unemployment, and a higher level of employment protection), adaptation is assumed to be more difficult in Germany than in the UK. So, the degree of Europeanisation of the public policy domain is expected to be higher in Germany (assumed to take a fence-sitting position) than in the UK (expected to rather be pace-setter of employment policy reforms).

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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.