Gaby Umbach, The European Commission: The ‘Primary Administrator’ of the EES – Analysing, Preparing, Evaluating, Negotiating, and Drafting in:

Gaby Umbach

Intent and Reality of the European Employment Strategy, page 241 - 250

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
241 4. Structural-Procedural Aspects in Practice: The ‘Living Constitution’ of the Proto-Type OMC – The Political Reality of the EES-PCN The aim of the present chapter is to examine the assumptions of the first guiding thesis on the Europeanisation of employment policy co-ordination structures at European and domestic levels. The chapter focuses on the impact of the EES on the network of actors involved, highlighting the institutional, structural, and procedural characteristics at domestic level and related to their interaction within the newly set up EES-PCN. At European level, it will be analysed, whether the EES influenced the development of a new PCN that merged different policy co-ordination cycles’ epistemic communities into one integrated advocacy coalition of socio-economic policy co-ordination. It will be of core interest to examine, if and in how far the EES changed EMLG policy network logics (cf. chapter by re-defining characteristic patterns, re-distributing powers, and creating new structural particularities. With a view to the UK and Germany, the chapter also examines whether common Europeanisation trends towards institutional isomorphism (cf. chapter can be found or whether national traditions and previous institutional paths dominate EES-related domestic institution-building.85 4.1 The Supranational Part of the EES-PCN: Cards Re-Shuffled Revealing a New Integrated Approach? The analysis of the theoretico-empirical frame pointed at the specific characteristics of EMLG and their influence on supranational policy-making (cf. chapter One of these core features is the development of multilevel policy networks as central structural-procedural patterns of policy-making (cf. chapter These policy networks are characterised by a multilayered interlinkage of political processes and relations within a polycentric political system, by complex, yet partially unstructured interactions accompanied by an increasing interdependence of actors of different levels, by a multiplication of access points to the political process within numerous political arenas, by a non-hierarchical institutional design and by consensual policy-making based on shared decision-making competences (cf. table 1). 85 The findings of this chapter, especially those related to the national end of the EES-PCN in the UK and Germany, are based on interviews with relevant political actors involved in the EES-PCN in Brussels, London, and Berlin carried out for this study (cf. chapter 8.1). Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 242 By applying the OMC, that is, soft policy co-ordination, the EES is assumed to alter the structural-procedural premises of multilevel policy-making within EMLG policy networks. It, thereby, impacts on the systemic premises of EMLG. EMLG policy networks are transformed into EMLG policy co-ordination networks (PCN), structurally and procedurally adapting to the characteristics of the new policy instrument. In how far this adaptation brings about a break with previous systemic as well as structural-procedural logics of EMLG policy networks and whether the OMC has led to the creation of a fundamentally new integrated PCN-approach will be analysed. In light of the first guiding thesis, the following sub-chapter examines, whether the supranational part of the EES-PCN, by establishing of a new supranational institutional structure, has an impact on the construction of a special non-hierarchical PCN of actors involved in the EES at European level. It will, moreover, analyse whether the EES challenged the relation between supranational institutions, whether it exerted adaptation pressure on power constellations as well as distribution related to European employment policy co-ordination and whether or not the new EES-PCN differs from ‘traditional’ EMLG policy networks (cf. chapter given that the OMC is assessed to impact on the re-arrangement of overall network patterns (cf. chapter As briefly introduced before (cf. chapter 3.2.1 and, the main supranational actors involved in the Luxembourg process are the • European Commission DG’s: o Employment and Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (DG EMPL); o Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN); o Education and Culture (DG EDU); o Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTER); • Council configurations: o Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO), assisted by the Employment Committee (EMCO) and the Social Protection Committee (SPC); o Economic and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN), assisted by the Economic and Financial Committee (EFC) and the Economic Policy Committee (EPC); o Education, Youth and Culture (EYC), Internal Market (INT) and Industry (IND) (after 2002: INT and IND merged with the Research Council into the Competitiveness (COMP) Council); • European Council; • European Parliament (EP), European Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC), and Committee of the Regions (CoR); • Standing Committee on Employment/Tripartite Social Summit (cf. graph 11); The analysis of the supranational part of the EES-PCN focuses on these European institutions involved in supranational employment policy co-ordination. It examines their specific roles, positions, and interactions especially during the first phase of the Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 243 EES (1997-2002). Yet, it also takes into account the changes initiated with the 2003/05 reforms. The chapter analyses the practical interactions of the actors involved, putting ‘structural-procedural flesh’ on the ‘constitutional bones’ of the Amsterdam Treaty. 4.1.1 The European Commission: The ‘Primary Administrator’ of the EES – Analysing, Preparing, Evaluating, Negotiating, and Drafting The European Commission represents the “primary administrator of the process” (Smismans 2004:3). It is supposed to take an independent overarching view on the EES and to produce a critical assessment of the EU’s employment situation (interview EU-3). It, moreover, has been assessed to perform a strong agenda-setting role within the entire EES (interview EU-5) as well as regarding the 2003/05 reforms. The Commission’s main role is to initiate and co-ordinate the Luxembourg process. DG Employment, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities (DG EMPL) is the main department holding EES-related competences. Being the core supervising, coordinating and moderating administrative body (cf. Huget 2002:13), it examines the member states’ NAPs, which, in the first phase of the EES, were due on 1 May each year (interview EU-3). They have usually been submitted to the Commission between March and May (cf. table 25). With the 2003 reforms, this date changed to the period between September and December as foreseen in the BEPG process. On the basis of the evaluation of the NAPs, the Commission prepares the evaluation of the member states’ performance during the previous year and draws up the draft annual JER, recommendations and EGs. It delivers impetus and additional expertise for socio-economic co-ordination processes at European level and, together with the EPSCO Council, also produces analysis for the comparison of best practices (bench-marking) under the EES. So, it provides for information to measure - (alteration of policy-related country-ranking) and ?–convergence (similarity towards a common model). With a view to the first phase of the EES, Directorate A (‘Employment and ESF Policy Co-ordination’), B and C (‘National employment and social inclusion monitoring and ESF Operations I+II’, including country desks UK and Germany within Directorate C) dealt with the EES within DG EMPL. They formed the European Commission’s core EES-team, jointly preparing the evaluation of the member states’ NAPs and holding joint meetings throughout the year, linking both the EES and the ESF related Commission work (interview EU-2). Special co-ordinators took and still take care of the interlinkage and co-ordination of the EES team’s work (ibid., EU-3). Due to re-structuring in the course of enlargement and the 2003/05 reforms, Directorate A (‘ESF, Monitoring of Corresponding National Policies I, Coordination’, including country desk UK), B (‘ESF, Monitoring of Corresponding National Policies II’), C (‘ESF, Monitoring of Corresponding National Policies III’, including country desk Germany) and D (‘Employment, Lisbon Strategy, International Affairs’, including the EES) form the new Commission core EES team. The EES Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 244 co-ordinators–among them the former UK country desk officer–are now located in Directorate D. They, moreover, manage the DG’s EES-related work as well as the inner-institutional co-ordination process between the different directorates, which is especially intensive before the NAPs are submitted to the Commission and during the first preparatory phase of the drafts (interview EU-3). During the first phase of the EES, Directorate A comprised the officials responsible for the overall evaluation of the EES, which later on shifted to the Employment- and Lisbon-focused Directorate D. The team is engaged in preparing the first part of the JER-supporting document, which represents the state of the union address on employment policies (interview EU-3). The 15 to 16 experts (excl. administrative staff) of this team analyse member states’ employment performance, especially focusing on tendencies and trends across the EU during the past evaluation period (ibid.). Officials of Directorate D (formally Directorate A) also take part in EMCO meetings (cf. interviews EU- 2 and EU-3). Additionally, before enlargement, 15 experts of Directorate B and C, the so-called ‘country desks’, each specialist in one member state, were responsible for the examination of the employment performance and policies of the respective member state as well as of their NAPs. The heads of units monitored the evaluation (interview EU-3). After enlargement, nine country-units, located within Directorates A, B and C, each covering three to four member states and jointly comprising about 108 country-specific policy officers, programme managers and financial managers, indicate at a remarkable structural extension and adaptation within the European Commission. Whereas the annual cycle was re-scheduled in 2003, the DG EMPL’s evaluation procedure largely remains the same also after the streamlining. Before 2003, the country-specific evaluation of the NAPs was carried out in Directorates B and C (A, B and C)86 within six to seven weeks from early May to mid-/end-June. This evaluation led towards the first draft of the country-specific strength-and-weaknesses sections (boxes and fiches) of the JER, looking at changes within the member states and particularly at the way, member states addressed the previous year’s recommendation and new EGs. The first section of these evaluation reports additionally comprises challenges for the future, which form the precursors of the Commission priorities of the new recommendation (interview EU-2 and EU-3). In the first phase of the EES, the evaluation results, that is, part I of the draft JER and the individual country’s evaluation, were then released and communicated to the member states in mid- July (interview EU-3), while the release shifted towards the end of the year after the 2003 reforms. Adding to these country-specific evaluations is the examination of the employment situation in Europe, comparing member states’ and the average performance as well as basic developments, such as shifts towards quality of work issues. The work of the country experts forms the basis of the work of Directorate A (D) (interviews EU-2 and EU-3), which is accompanied by feed-back contacts with national officials and to a lesser degree also with officials of the PermReps (interview D-1). 86 Information provided in parentheses: division of work since the 2003/05 reforms. Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 245 Following this first inner-Commission preparatory step, from 1998 to 2002 direct negotiations on the evaluation results of the NAPs and draft recommendations between the Commission and the member states started in late August to early September (cf. ibid.; since 2003: early the next year). These first bilateral contacts broaden the EES-PCN towards the national level, offering a first key point of access for national actors. They introduce bilateral meetings between the Commission and national delegations that are composed of officials of the member states’ relevant ministries (representing the government as a whole) and domestic social partners (representing non-governmental actors involved in the national employment process; interview D-2, D-5, EU-3). While the focus of Directorate A (D) during these bilateral meetings largely lies on more general elements and aspects related to the work of the EMCO, Directorate B and C (A and C) focus on the bilateral discussion of the Commission’s evaluation and assessment of the (British and German) annual NAPs, the draft recommendations and the implementation of the ESF (interview D-2). Like the British delegation does, the German group comprises officials of all ministries involved as well as of domestic social partners (DGB and BDA). Yet, the intensity of participation of the latter varied and in 2002 the DGB, just like CEEP-UK, did not take part in the bilateral meetings phase. The size of national delegations varies. It depends on the national systemic preconditions and on domestic administrative co-ordination practice for employment policy formation. It is, hence, strongly affected by domestic intervening variables, such as a member state’s federal structure or strong domestic interest representation structures (cf. chapter 2.2.1). These bilateral and EMCO meetings–partially due to bottlenecks of capacities, but most intensively caused by the OMC applied–do not actively involve the member states’ PermReps in Brussels. So, these meetings deviate from the standard coordination procedures to prepare Council decision within COREPER I and II (cf. chapter 2.2.1). Like in the German case, relevant papers are, however, circulated to the PermReps and one PermRep official usually takes part in EMCO meetings, albeit as a listener (interview D-1). During the bilateral meetings, that from 1998 to 2002 were held within a two to three week period in August (interview EU-3; now in January) either in Brussels or within national seminars (interview EU-1), the Commission offers the member states the opportunity to deliberate on the evaluation of the NAPs, to negotiate on content, to clear potential mal-perception, and to clarify remaining problems. Usually, during these bilaterals most topics discussed are agreed upon between the Commission and the respective EU member state (interview EU-3). The quality of this bilateral meeting phase is, however, assessed by some national actors to merely represent a series of ‘political good will meetings’ (interview D-3), rather than a real negotiation phase. Within these meetings, that usually last about two to three hours, the Commission is represented through high-ranking officials of DG EMPL. The delegation also comprises officials of the different branches of the EES team. Due to the EES’s Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 246 overlap with the BEPG and other socio-economic policy co-ordination cycles, also other services, such as DG ECFIN (BEPG), DG EDU (lifelong learning dimension and topics like ‘early-school-leavers’) and DG ENTER (entrepreneurship pillar) are represented (interview D-2, EU-3). As perceived by the participants, the meetings provide for a political, albeit very closed, ‘intimate’ and constructive arena to discuss country-specific proposals. Particularly officials of DG EMPL assess themselves to perform bridge-building functions during these meetings, trying to reach agreement between the supranational and national level (interview EU-3). Some British and German actors involved assessed the Commission officials during these bilateral meetings as rather sensitive and open to member states’ comments, which, yet, always need to be based on ‘hard’ empirical and statistical evidence to improve the evaluation (interview D-1, D-2). According to one German official (interview D- 2), changes to the Commission’s evaluation are only introduced, if national delegations are able to present hard and reliable evidence for corrections. Lamentation and diffuse critique do, thus, not substitute concrete arguments at this stage of the process. Within the bilaterals, the Commission is viewed to target also at process improvement, while, at the same time, it is assessed to leave room for explanation of policy failure and for clarification of unclear aspects. Germany, for instance, trying to counterbalance criticism, repeatedly referred to German re-unification as the major underlying reason for weak economic growth and structural problems in East- Germany (interview D-1, EU-2). The Commission, is, yet, also perceived to directly highlight and address shortcomings vis-à-vis the member states (interviews D-2, D- 3, D-5, EU-2). In this context, the Commission is viewed to apply some sort of friendly ‘bazar-like’ consultation technique: it starts with fairly tough proposals and recommendations, which–by reasonable intervention of the member states–can, yet, be watered down given that the latter try to avoid the concrete recommendations by the Commission and, thus, aim at agreeing upon a broader leeway for the future employment policy development (interview EU-3). The overall approach of the Commission in the bilaterals is, thus, perceived to focus on resolutely pointing at domestic problems in order to open up room for deliberation on policy solutions, while the imposition of concrete reforms is assessed to be counter-productive (interview EU-2). The bilateral meetings are said to be guided by consensus- rather than conflictorientation, searching for agreement on future national reform priorities rather than seeking to pressure for reforms in a top-down manner. Nevertheless, also cases of fundamental disagreement between the Commission and the member states’ governments came to pass, like in the case of unfavourable ‘basic skills’-policies, the gender pay gap or the problem of early intervention in the UK (interview EU-3, UK- 1, UK-2, UK-4). Related to these topics, the Commission proposed concrete reforms, including the introduction of a tax credit system to tackle the basic skills problem (interview EU-3). This Commission proposal was, yet, not accepted by the UK. The British government, however, acknowledged that the area of basic skills– especially concerning people in low quality work or low qualified in general– Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 247 constituted a weak spot compared to other member states’ performance (ibid.). The refusal of the Commission’s proposal was justified by its prescriptive character intervening into national employment policy-making sovereignties (ibid.). Moreover, the British government was concerned about national adaptation after such a concrete Commission proposal being interpreted back home as a fundamental weakness of the government, subordinating domestic policy approaches to imposed European priorities. So, as the national arena is rather sensitive to this sort of interpretation, the British government tried to prevent Commission criticism which could have been followed by unfavourable media coverage (ibid., UK-1, UK-4, EU-5). The bilateral negotiations on this topic finally culminated in the result to ‘agree to disagree’ on this topic (interview UK-1, UK-2). The British government emphasised to be aware of the problem and to accept the Commission’s criticism. At the same time, criticism did not seem to have led to domestic reforms and adaptation (interview EU-3). This particular example of member states’ disagreement with the Commission evaluation provides for empirical evidence of the EES suffering from its nonbinding character. So, the only remaining option in such cases is assessed to be the submission of the respective topic for further negotiation to the EMCO and the Council (interview EU-3). This, of course, also impacts on the overall position of the Commission and deprives it of sufficient means to enforce compliance. The bilaterals, however, also offer evidence for the positive impact of the EES instigating domestic adaptation through continuous exchange and monitoring. The bilateral deliberation on the German gender pay gap stands for such a positive perception. During the first bilateral deliberation on the topic, the Commission insisted on the aspect being problematic in Germany. The German government and especially the Federal Ministry for Families, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth, until 2000, downplayed the topic. It tried to convince the Commission to have relied on inaccurate statistical data based on too small and heterogeneous a sample not representative for Germany as a whole, because it did not take into account the public sector (interview EU-2). Following national intervention, the Commission– obviously not entirely confident in the accuracy of its own data–abandoned the integration of the topic into the JER and gave Germany the opportunity to provide correct data to explain the problem. At the same time, the Commission critique initiated domestic reflection on the gender pay gap problem. After closer examination of the domestic situation, a certain change of perception within the government was to be witnessed. As a result, in 2001, the Ministry for Families, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth accepted the Commission’s evaluation and increased the political priority of the issue (interview D-2, EU-2). So, persistent Commission critique during the bilaterals can not only cause spillbacks in domestic willingness to react to negative evaluations. It can also cause changes of national perceptions and of resistance to adaptation. It, therefore, has shown to have the potential to change domestic paradigms and to strengthen existing reform approaches–like in the case of the German tax reform (interview D-1, D-2, D-4, D-5)–or to even, albeit rather rarely, initiate reforms. Such (partial) change of Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 248 perception was also witnessed in the case of the Commission proposal on early intervention measures concerning the British New Deal for Adults, including intervention within the first 12 months of unemployment instead of the former 24 months. These changes were proposed to the UK by the Commission and perceived to have been taken up by the British government in subsequent years, even if the period for early intervention–for cost reasons–was shortened only to 18 instead of the proposed 12 months (interview EU-3). In view of changing the initial Commission perception, members of the German delegation assessed themselves to have repeatedly been able to soften Commission criticism and to partially adapt the NAP evaluation to domestic perceptions. Generally, the German government is viewed to be especially keen on the respect of the principle of ‘fairness of critique’ and sets store by not being treated unfairly compared to other member states (interview D-1, D-2). Due to perceived missing insight into relevant background variables of the German political system, supranational criticism was, yet, not always assessed by domestic actors to be justified (ibid.). In such cases, governments–apparently motivated by some sort of adverse-effects reflex–expect the topic in question, such as long-term unemployment or female unemployment in the German case, to be analysed as a vital topic of the employment situation in Europe rather than as a country-specific problem (interview D-2). During the first phase of the EES, DG EMPL–after the bilateral meetings phase– prepared the amended and corrected evaluation report and the recommendations within a two-week period in September. Thereafter, more complete drafts of the JER and the recommendations were produced and submitted to the EMCO, usually in October (interview EU-3; currently in January). Within the Council, EMCO takes over process leadership (ibid.). After submission, the process enters the peer review phase, in which member states evaluate each others’ NAPs. As a cross-check for its own assessment and a source for further amendment of its own reports, the Commission closely evaluates the outcome of the peer review exercise within the EMCO. On the basis of this ‘double-checked’ evaluation, including member states’ remarks and arguments on the NAPs, the draft JER is finalised by the Commission after the EMCO stage. This fine-tuning phase again provides for a small window of opportunity for bilateral contacts with the member states (interview D-2), before the JER is finalised and the recommendations are finally drafted (interview EU-3). Throughout the year, the Commission additionally engaged in the further development of the EGs, suggesting changes and adaptation where assessed necessary. The overall approach towards the EGs is, yet, to keep them as stable as possible in order to properly measure impact within the member states. Changes were negotiated within EMCO meetings throughout the year (ibid.). In parallel to the bilateral meetings in Brussels, more direct contacts take place during visits of Commission officials to the single member states throughout the year, such as in the framework of conferences and workshops under the peer review/mutual learning programme (cf. chapter 3.2.1). In this framework, DG EMPL’s national experts further monitor and examine employment policy progress and adaptation to change. The meetings additionally tighten links with the member states and Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 249 provide a valuable feed-back device into supranational EES-PCN activities (interview EU-2, EU-3). With its working methods and structures, the Commission, at a very early stage of the Luxembourg process, tries to establish direct and intensive contacts with the member states. Especially the preparatory phase of the process is perceived to be collaborative in style, aiming to clear problems in order to avoid open conflicts rather than to prescribe solutions. This even more so, as conflicts at this stage of the process are perceived to endanger the overall success of the EES, which still depends on the member states’ willingness to co-ordinate their employment policies. The Commission, according to the perception of European level actors interviewed, quite realistically recognises these limits and its potential for action (ibid.). Concerning the quality of the Commission’s internal EES-related process during the first phase of the EES, Commission officials, yet, also highlighted structuralprocedural shortcomings of co-ordination and balance of the two key policy paradigms involved–that is, socio-employment topics vs. a predominant economic focus of European integration–causing efficiency gaps within the Commission (ibid.). These problems were particularly ascribed to differences in priorities of the two central DGs involved (DG EMPL and DG ECFIN) and to a ‘traditional’ conflict of interests between those units responsible for the budget and those units ‘spending the money’ (interview EU-2). Co-ordinative bottlenecks were viewed to have become especially evident related to the contents of the BEPG’ labour market section that falls into the competences of DG ECFIN. Overlaps with the EGs were not seldom solved at the expense of the competences of DG EMPL and, hence, in favour of the predominant supranational economic paradigm (interview D-2). The lack of clear division of competences and attribution of labour market related co-ordination priorities strictly to DG EMPL were assessed to have continuously caused tensions between the two Commission services. These tensions were viewed to sometimes interfere in inter-service co-ordination of the JER, the EGs, and the BEPG (interview EU-2, EU-3, EU-5). According to Commission officials, it also led to contradictions between the EES’s and the BEPG’ country-specific recommendations in the past (interview EU-3, EU-5). In those cases, DG ECFIN’s (and also ECOFIN’s) priorities were perceived to limit the impact of the EES particularly on social benefit reforms as well as on social protection and employment legislation (interview D-2), causing problems between DG EMPL and ECFIN as well as between the Commission and the member states (interview EU-3). Such tensions were, moreover, assessed to block the adoption of core elements of the ‘policy ID’ of the EES, hampering the success towards ?-convergence (similarity towards a common model). Yet, as also remarked by Commission officials, views of DG ECFIN were more in line with the majority of member states that tend towards the predominant supranational economic policy paradigm rather than opt for the further development of the European social model as favoured by DG EMPL (interview EU-2). Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 250 4.1.2 The Council of the EU: Multilevel Switchboard of the New ‘Third Wayism’ Co-ordination Structure – The EES-PCN Going ‘A Little’ Public The Council of the EU is the main supranational arena for intergovernmental exchange and consultation as well as negotiation on employment policy co-ordination within the Luxembourg process. Since 2000, the main Council formation dealing with the EES and leading the process is the EPSCO Council. Before this date, further complicating the overall procedure, EPSCO and ECOFIN held equal rights within the EES-related co-ordination process (interview D-3). The EPSCO Council’s EES work is supported by the Council secretariat’s ‘Social Policy and Employment’ division. The division comprises seven officials. One of them plus the head of division are responsible for supporting EMCO. EMCO itself provides for the main place for monitoring, peer review, preparation, exchange, and consultation to steer the Luxembourg process and to prepare EPSCO work (interview EU-1, EU- 2). Additionally, the official working on the EES within the ‘Social Policy and Employment’ division is also liaised to the ‘Regional Policy’ division and, therefore, also engaged in regional policies, including the ESF and EES-related aspects (interview EU-1). The Council’s secretariat plans the way ‘things are guided through the system’, co-ordinating also the opinions of other supranational institutions involved (interview EU-1). The EMCO meets every four to eight weeks as a full committee, while the indicators and the ad-hoc groups (cf. below) additionally meet in-between (interview D-2). Yet, despite this clear functional focus and given the ‘Third Wayism’ of the EES merging supranational and intergovernmental structural-procedural elements, the “real nature of the committee, however, is far from clear-cut” (de la Porte/Pochet 2002b:38). While some actors involved perceive the EMCO to be a place of intergovernmental encounter to bargain and balance member states’ interests, others, especially Commission officials, consider it to be an overall facilitator of the supranational political process (ibid.). As outlined above (cf. chapter, the EMCO reunites national and Commission experts on employment policy at a very high level. It consists of Council members (officials of the member states’ ministries of labour) and the Commission (representatives of DG EMPL; interview EU-1). Following the provisions of Art. 130 TEC, the EMCO was officially established by a Council decision of 2000 (cf. Council of the EU 2000c), replacing the earlier ELMC (cf. chapter and in a path-dependent manner of institutional development (cf. chapter 3.1.1). The composition and working methods of the newly established EMCO did not considerably alter from those of the former ELMC (interview EU-1). Each member state and DG EMPL’s Directorate A (D) delegate two high-ranking officials and appoint two deputies to the EMCO. National representatives are to be “selected from among senior officials or experts possessing outstanding competence in the field of employment and labour market policy in the Member States” (Council of the EU 2000c:Art.2.2). Depending on the topic of consultation or negotiation, the Commission is represented by the Director General of DG EMPL and other DG delegates.

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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.