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Gaby Umbach, Applicability of the Europeanisation Approach: Misfit and Adaptation Pressure – Omnipotent Concepts To Explain Change Instigated by the OMC? in:

Gaby Umbach

Intent and Reality of the European Employment Strategy, page 168 - 170

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 https://doi.org/10.5771/9783845212470

Series: Studies on the European Union, vol. 1

Bibliographic information
Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 168 The second guiding thesis does not assume the overall irrelevance of the EES. Nevertheless, no or rather diffuse Europeanisation would point at change of public policy caused by only unintentionally parallel domestic policy choices in the two countries. These parallel choices would be based on similar domestic constellations and intervening variables. If at all, they would only to an extremely limited degree be stimulated by European guidelines and recommendations. Domestic policy agendas of social democratic governments would predominate. Although the timing of the EES would be matching with domestic reform agendas and approaches, national public policy traditions and priorities would block Europeanisation (cf. chapter 2.2.2). If no Europeanisation will be witnessed, the analysis reveals a high degree of national employment policy stability. This stability would indicate at domestic policy paradigms and traditions that are deeply rooted in diverse national cognitive/normative structures, such as national employment policy concepts, approaches and understandings. Moreover, these paradigms and traditions would be characterised by national perceptions, priorities, and differences, such as divergent economic systems, performances, and welfare state traditions (cf. chapter 2.2.2) or influenced by adverse supra-/international initiatives (cf. chapter 2.2.2.3). National governments would ignore the outcome of European co-ordination and monitoring cycles, best practices, and benchmark exercises. Such a result would point at a fundamental gap between the alleged intent of the EES and its reality. The falsification of the second guiding thesis on the Europeanisation of domestic employment policies and their underlying cognitive/normative structures would support the conclusion that national policy paradigms and traditions are strong intervening variables to hamper adaptation of policy contents. Moreover, it would prove the EES and the OMC to be no powerful instruments to foster policy change and Europeanisation of national employment policies. 2.3.3 Applicability of the Europeanisation Approach: Misfit and Adaptation Pressure – Omnipotent Concepts To Explain Change Instigated by the OMC? Within the analytical armoury of European integration theories, Europeanisation is perceived to be the concept best fitting to explain change not only at EU level, but also at domestic level. In line with this twofold analytical perspective, the study assumes an Europeanisation impact of the EES concerning domestic structures, public policies and underlying domestic cognitive/normative structures (cf. chapter 2.3.1 and 2.3.2). Following the ‘logic of appropriateness’ (cf. chapter 2.1.2.1), the domain of cognitive/normative structures is assumed to be the most important domain of Europeanisation with a view to the EES. Only on the basis of adaptation in this area domestic structures and employment policies are expected to change. Policy learning by exchange among experts and the development of ‘constitutive rules’ (cf. chapter 2.1.2.1) are, thus, expected to be key aims and tools of the EES given that reliance on legal bindingness and strict compliance is missing. Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 169 The expected Europeanisation impact of the EES is presumed to be the result of down-loading or top-down Europeanisation that instigates cross-loading, aiming at both vertical and horizontal policy transfer (cf. chapter 2.1.2.2). Yet, in the case of the EES, applying the OMC as a rather distinct and new policy instrument, the overall relation between domestic misfit, adaptation pressure, and domestic change is expected to be somewhat blurred, diffuse, and divers from regulatory policies. Therefore, the third guiding thesis broadens the analytical view on the Europeanisation approach in order to present expectations on its applicability and validity in case of the EES and the OMC. From these general ideas on the Europeanisation impact of the EES and on the applicability of the Europeanisation approach to the OMC derives the following set of assumptions of the third thesis: The EES impacts on the Europeanisation of British and German employment policies and policy-making via down-loading that initiates cross-loading, aiming at both vertical and horizontal policy transfer. Yet, the Europeanisation approach analytically strongly relies on the existence of modest domestic misfit and adaptation pressure to explain change. This ex-ante limitation impedes its analytical depth and applicability in the case of the EES/OMC. Concerning its applicability, the Europeanisation approach is presumed to analytically perform well in cases of domestic adaptation caused by moderate misfit. In cases of standstill, that is, inertia, it is expected to perform less reliable given that inertia is expected to be the potential result of both extreme domestic proximity (low misfit) and extreme distance (high misfit) to European provisions (cf. chapter 2.1.2.1). So, inertia is assumed to be found in both cases of too high and too low adaptation pressure. In such cases, no or no high degree of Europeanisation is assumed to be found, even though the reasons for no or low adaptation differ considerably, as might national attempts to implement the EES. Additionally, due to the missing legal bindingness of the EES/OMC, discernible Europeanisation does not necessarily rely on adaptation pressure as there is no formal need to comply. Consequently, the mere existence of adaptation pressure due to misfit does not explain the outcome of domestic adaptation caused by the EES. Hence, although misfit can still be regarded as a necessary starting point for Europeanisation, it alone does no longer seem to be the most relevant explanative variable for Europeanisation given that the EES does not establish a clear-cut ‘vertical, chainof-command’ for compliance between the supranational and the national levels (cf. chapter 2.1.2.1). Based on these difficulties of applicability, the Europeanisation approach is expected to reach certain analytical borders with the EES and the OMC, beyond which it does not sufficiently deliver anymore. At these borders and given that employment policy co-ordination does not aim at strict implementation of legally binding elements, especially domestic misfit is presumed to lose its explanative power for the Theoretico-Empirical Frame of Reference 170 analysis of Europeanisation. Hence, as the need for formal compliance is missing, domestic conformity does not rely on (the degree of) misfit and adaptation pressure any longer. As a consequence, domestic priorities and traditions can become equally or even more important elements than misfit or adaptation pressure to explain the degree of Europeanisation. Thus, with a view to the application of the Europeanisation approach to the analysis of the EES and the OMC, it is assumed to be even more important to take into consideration national systemic and policy preconditions before the inception of the EES (t0). These preconditions allow for an assessment of the degree of ex-ante ‘Europeanisedness’ of national levels in 1997 that provides for an additional basis to identify reasons for domestic change or standstill. Consequently and given that change (if it were to be discerned) might not easily be traced back merely to compliance with the EES, it is assumed to be of additional importance to take into account a broader range of intervening variables (cf. chapter 2.2) than in the case of regulatory policies. Therefore, misfit needs not only to be stated, but its degree and kind need to be further categorised in order to sufficiently explain Europeanisation results. Thus, a closer look at national traditions, policy paradigms and the domestic conditions in terms of similarity and differences to the EES, as provided above (cf. chapter 2.2.1 and 2.2.2), is perceived to be indispensable. Moreover, compared to Europeanisation through regulatory policies, the veto point variable is presumed not to form a central explanative element to explain domestic change. This fact is expected to reduce the overall compliance pressure. As a consequence, the involvement of political actors might become strongly strategic, reducing the role of veto points in the policy co-ordination process. Yet, even if the veto point variable is assumed to not sufficiently explain the degree of Europeanisation anymore, it is, nevertheless, still assessed to be an important element for the analysis of domestic adaptation also in the case of the EES. As a result of these changed preconditions for the application of the Europeanisation approach, it might turn out not to be possible to draw direct causal conclusions on the impact of the EES on EU member states. So, the Europeanisation approach might not be equipped to measure all facets of domestic adaptation as these might not solely be the result of EU-imposed adaptation pressure. It is, thus, of outmost importance to not just relate every trace of change to the European influence and to label these traces Europeanisation, just because change is witnessed. The present study meets these concerns by the introduction of a broader view on the domestic employment policy development (cf. chapter 2.2.2.1) and by the intensive examination of the British and German systemic and employment policy/welfare state traditions (cf. chapter 2.2.1 and 2.2.2).

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Zusammenfassung

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.