Gaby Umbach, Interim Assessment: The Supranational Part of the EES-PCN – A New Integrated PCN Interlinking Socio-Economic Policy Co-ordination Processes? in:

Gaby Umbach

Intent and Reality of the European Employment Strategy, page 263 - 270

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
Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 263 as to unburden their annual monitoring and reporting timetables and strengthen their participation (interview EU-5). Concerning the participation of social partners within the first phase of the EES, the Commission identified room for substantial improvement and intensification of activities with a stronger involvement and integration at European level in order to increase the overall legitimacy of the process. Social partners were generally assessed to not have taken over ownership of the process, to not have been as involved as they could/should have been and, hence, to not have sufficiently lived up to their responsibilities under the Luxembourg process (interview EU-3). Some social partner organisations assessed this criticism to intervene into their intrinsic autonomy (interview EU-4), while others felt not involved early enough in the process (interview EU-6). Problems in this context especially arose through the missing powers of supranational social partners’ confederations to bind their national affiliates as well as diverging national social dialogue negotiations cycles (interview EU-4, EU-5), hampering the overall success of the process at EU level. Especially in view of the integration of supranational social partners into the process of drafting the EGs since 2002, these problems revealed gaps between the supranational and national level involvement given that national affiliates were partially not willing to accept the work of their supranational confederations (interview D-2). The 2003/05 reforms, at least theoretically, tackled this particular problem and provided for broader room for integration. According to supranational social partner representatives, the assessed lack of participation is predominantly caused by scarce resources at hand at the European level and by the profound differences of influence and resources of national member organisations (interview EU-4, EU-5, EU-6). These differences provide for the basis of uneven national engagement at the European level, making it even more difficult to formulate joint positions for the supranational EES cycle. Evidence for this weakness is at hand for instance when comparing German trade unions’ strength, rooting in the long-established right to free collective bargaining (Tarifautonomie), and the situation of their British counterparts. 4.1.5 Interim Assessment: The Supranational Part of the EES-PCN – A New Integrated PCN Interlinking Socio-Economic Policy Co-ordination Processes? The supranational part of the EES-PCN is typical for the structural-procedural characteristics of EMLG policy-making in some of its elements. At the same time, it is atypical in others. While clearly concentrating on the EES, the focus of the EES- PCN is not laid on employment policies alone. It takes into consideration a broader range of aspects deriving from the interweavement of employment policy coordination with other supranational policy co-ordination cycles, establishing close relations to macro-economic policies as well as to education and learning. Overlaps with other policy areas are, thus, stronger than in conventional EMLG policy networks, creating structural-procedural hurdles for strong sectoralisation. Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 264 Institutional creativity has been rather limited within the newly set up EES-PCN which took up earlier institutional arrangements and path-dependently reformed them to serve the EES. Real institutional innovation, such as the ‘Jumbo Councils’, did not survive a longer period. The interweavement of actors and policy areas creates tight inner- and interinstitutional links between the two main camps involved within the European Commission (DG EMPL/DG ECFIN) and the Council (EPSCO/ECOFIN) as well as between the two institutions. This link–at least theoretically–brings together employment policy actors and actors of other relevant policy fields. Between these two camps, close and intensive working relations have been established during the first phase of the EES (interview EU-1). Yet, in practice, the merger of policy coordination cycles and related epistemic communities was implemented rather insufficiently with the two different policy paradigms partially blocking the successful welding of socio-economic policy co-ordination processes and the creation of a new integrated PCN (interview EU-3). Moreover, also due to the low public visibility of the EES, the circle of actors involved tended to be rather small (interview EU-3). Rivalries and some sort of ‘ritualised conflict’ especially shine through in the relations between the Commission DG’s EMPL and ECFIN as well as within the partially tough negotiations between the EPSCO and ECOFIN Council on the consistence of the EES with the BEPG (interview EU-1). The two sets of actors themselves also criticised not being as co-ordinated and co-ordinating with each other as they should be. This criticism additionally fed into the reflections on the streamlining of the BEGPs and the EES as implemented with the 2003 reforms (interview EU-3). Within the supranational part of the EES-PCN, the regular dominance of organisational actors within EMLG policy networks is reflected by the clear process leadership of the Commission and the Council during the different phase of the (multi-) annual cycle. The Commission focuses on monitoring, reporting, illustrating best practices, and weaknesses as well as on more technically evaluating member states’ performances. The Council, on the other hand, represents a more political arena, politicising the rather de-politicised evaluation process within the Commission. Reducing its status as the de-politicised arena for reporting and monitoring to a certain extent, the Commission, at the same time, has also developed its own political agenda related to the EES, as in view of the quality of work issue (interview EU- 3). The strong position of the Commission–with its over 100 officials involved in the EES’s daily business within DG EMPL, let alone those of the other Commission services involved–is backed by its role as the main policy broker within the preparatory and bilateral meeting phase. It, thus, became the ‘primary administrator’ of the EES. Close relations to member states’ officials and insight into domestic policy practice are, moreover, supported by the Commission’s involvement in peer review exercises, enhancing the knowledge base of the Commission and, at the same time, strengthening confidence in its capacities and quality of information. Nevertheless, also the Council and the EMCO dispose over a strong position. They perform a key ‘switchboard function’ between the different socio-economic policy co-ordination Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 265 processes–including different Council configurations and related committees–as well as with a view to the integration of social partners during the consultation phase. The practice of the first phase of the EES has shown that the supranational part of the EES-PCN favours asymmetric power relations. EU institutions and national governmental actors clearly dominate the policy co-ordination process. Yet, power relations between supranational actors disfavour the EP, ECOSOC and the CoR as well as the social partners. The latter additionally suffer from scarce supranational resources to be powerfully involved. They compensate this disadvantage by the stronger integration of their national affiliates in the formulation of positions. Due to the non-legally bindingness of the OMC, member states are to a certain extent rather free to accept or ignore both supranational criticism and recommendations as well as to implement supranational proposals at national level. This freedom in parallel curtails the influence of supranational institutions on real adaptation and convergence. Deviating from the general characteristics of EMLG policy networks, the aim of contacts within the EES-PCN is not to negotiate or prepare policies and to make decisions. Neither does the EES-PCN aim at the strict implementation of supranational policies and the related delegation of public authority. Due to the OMC applied, the focus is on consultation, policy co-ordination, monitoring, peer review and evaluation without targeting at regulatory policy output. Horizontal interactions during consultations rather than negotiations, yet, also include informal contacts both between member states and supranational institutions as well as with social partners. As in characteristic EMLG policy networks, also within the EES-PCN the search for consensus predominates, eliminating conflict or competition as alternative actors’ strategies within the rather de-politicised and pragmatic policy co-ordination process (interview D-2, D-3, EU-4, EU-5, EU-6). It does so even more as conflicts cannot and need not be solved by package deals or strategic coalition-building during negotiations on a specific policy output. With a view to the actors involved, another difference to classical EMLG policy networks is to be found within the low fluctuation and high stability caused by the rather closed network process and nearly now dynamics of actors constellations. So, this characteristic leaves cause for suspicion, that actors’ knowledge beyond their core policy co-ordination process–that means a more general overview on the contents and procedures of other co-ordination processes and the particular links between the different cycles–is not overwhelmingly intense (interview EU-4). Participation of corporate actors is missing and integration of national social partner organisations is limited to the preparation phase within the Commission. Moreover, only a very limited circle of supranational social partner organisation is directly involved. Contacts are channelled by a strongly formalised and institutionalised procedure. Therefore, also the degree of institutionalisation differs from that of normal EMGL policy networks, being much higher within the EES-PCN. Social partner integration has been a constant point of criticism within the EES’s first phase. This criticism added to efforts of institutional re-design of supranational Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 266 tripartite social dialogue structures. Reforms, yet, have been focused on the establishment of a more prominent forum. They left most of the past structural elements of the SCE intact. Nevertheless, increased prominence within the supranational annual policy co-ordination agenda before the Spring European Councils might, in the long-run, also lead to enhanced integration into the supranational political process of the EES. Graph 11: EU-Level EES-PCN – Core Actors and Areas of Interactions BEPG EMU/SGP Cologne process Cardiff process EES ECOFIN Council EFC/EPC EP ECOSOC CoREuropean CouncilEYC INT IND (CO M) Councils Social Partners Tripatite Social Summit ETUC/ UNICE/ CEEP EPSCO Council EMCO/SPC European Commission DG EDU DG ENTER European Commission DG ECFIN European Commission DG EMPL (EMCO Secretary) Source: Own design. Within the first phase of the EES, the above outlined supranational part of the EES- PCN never really witnessed a full procedural stabilisation in terms of constant adoption and submission of the documents required by the treaty. The EGs for 1998 and 1999 were adopted by the Council in December of the previous and in February of the respective year. From 2000 to 2002 they were established between January and February. The streamlining of the EES, the BEPG, and the IMS postponed adoption to the period from July to October (cf. table 25). Within the EES’s first phase, the NAPs have been drawn up and submitted between March and June each year, partially neglecting the official deadline of 1 May (interview D-3). With a view to the UK NAP, deviation in 1998 was due to the overlap with the domestic budget procedure. It was, hence, depending on structural provisions and priorities of the domestic Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 267 arena and the national political process (interview EU-3, UK-1). With the adoption of country-specific recommendations since 1999, an even more unstable variable was introduced to the process. The adoption varied over the first phase of the EES from October in 1999 to January and February within the three subsequent years. The JER was established each year between November and December. As of 2003, the establishment of the JER was postponed to March in order to prepare input for the Spring European Council. This timetable of delivery was clearly stabilised with the 2003 reforms, integrating the fixed element of the Spring European Council for the examination of the employment situation in the EU and for the adoption of conclusions on the guidelines. Yet, delivery of the NAPs and the implementation reports still remained unstable, from 2004 onwards varying from September to December. 268 Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice The different ministries and actors involved are in charge of preparing the respec- The Ministry of Finance: Pulling the Strings – Technical Lead as a Matter of ‘Grundsatzreferat’ correctness of the single ministries’ con- /Labour Market and Social Policy) Ta ble 25 : E uro pea n E mp loy me nt Po lic y C o-o rdi na tio n C ycl e: Ch ron olo gy of Co re Ac tor s’ C on trib uti on s 1 99 7-2 00 5 Ja n F eb M ar A p r M ay Ju n Ju l A u g S ep O ct N ov D ec 199 7 E U 1 (1998 ) E U 5 U K 2 199 8 D 2 E U 1 6 (1998 ) 4 5 U K 2 199 9 D 2 E U 1 4 6 (1999 ) 3+ 5 6 U K 2 200 0 D 2 E U 1 + 4 3 5+ 6 U K 2 200 1 D 2 E U 1+ 4 3 U K 2 200 2 D 2 S T R E A M L IN IN G O F EE S , B E P G , a n d I M S E U 5+ 6 (2002 ) 3 1+ 4 U K 2 200 3 D 2 E U 5+ 6 (2 00 3/ 04 ) 3 1+ 4 U K 2 200 4 D 2 W E L D IN G O F E E S a n d B E P G E U 5+ 6 (2 00 4/ 05 ) 3 1 U K 2 200 5 D 2 1: C ou nc il o f M in is te rs a do pt s th e E G s fo r m em be r st at es ; 2: M em be r st at es d ra w u p N A P s/ N R P s; 3 : E M C O e xa m in es m em be r st at es r ep or ts a nd c om m en ts o n th em (s in ce 2 00 0) ; 4: C ou nc il o f M in is te rs e xa m in es m em be r st at es r ep or ts a nd a do pt s, o n re co m m en da ti on o f th e C om m is si on r ec om m en da ti on s to t he m em be r st at es ( si nc e 19 99 ); 5 : C om m is si on a nd C ou nc il e st ab li sh J E R ; 6: E ur op ea n C ou nc il e xa m in es t he e m pl oy m en t si tu at io n on t he b as is o f th e JE R a nd a do pt c on cl us io ns o n th e E G s S ou rc e: O w n co m pi la ti on ; f ig ur es in di ca te a t t he s eq ue nc e of A rt . 1 29 T E C . T abl e 2 5: Eu rop ean Em plo ym ent Po licy Co -or din ati on Cy cle : C hro no log y o f C ore Ac tor s’ C on trib uti on s 1 997 -20 05 Ja n F eb M ar A pr M ay Ju n Ju l A ug Se p O ct N ov Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 269 During the first two years of the EES, this unstable timetable was presumably caused by the newness of the process. Stabilisation towards a fixed timetable in subsequent years fell short due to the tightness of process and the overlap with a multitude of other supranational and domestic processes. Thus, the EES, applying its soft co-ordination approach, provided actors involved with a substantial leeway to adapt employment policy co-ordination to their own preferences and domestic timetables as they were not ex-ante limited by the danger of sanctions in case of noncompliance or deviation. It can, thus, be suspected that delays might be caused by the OMC itself, as its voluntary co-ordination approach largely depends on the willingness of actors to collaborate and given that the missing pressure to make binding decisions on concrete supranational policies leaves substantial room for domestic priorities. Yet, also the opposite opinion has been voiced: according to one European official, delays were rather caused by the fact that member states take the process serious and intensively prepare for the deliberation on the evaluation reports and the recommendations that are perceived to be a matter of real concern at member state level (interview EU-3). In this perspective, main reasons for delay within the first phase of the EES were the • tightness of the process; • expansion of the bilateral meeting phase within the Commission caused by disagreement between the member states and the Commission (said to have been a problem with Germany and partially also the UK in the past; cf. ibid.); • intervening national priorities, such as the 2001 French general elections delaying the submission of the French NAP to the Commission until after the bilateral meetings phase in August/September 2001, which also caused delays for submission of the draft JER to the EMCO (cf. ibid.) or the 1999 deviation of the UK NAP due to the overlap with the domestic budget process; and • general work-overload of national as well as European officials. Hence, most of the strong time pressure and tightness of the process as well as the overall complexity of the different consultation and co-ordination procedures have been highlighted as hampering full procedural stabilisation and became a core point of criticism of nearly all actors involved. Conclusions from these procedural shortcomings of the first phase of the EES were drawn with the 2003 streamlining of the EES, the BEPG and the IMS and the 2005 welding of the EES and the BEPG, extending full national reporting cycles to a period of three years instead of the earlier annual full reporting. Structural-Procedural Aspects of the EES in Practice 270 4.2 The National Ends of the EES-PCN: Bypassing Domestic Paths or Resilient Traditions at Work – Adaptation Leading to Institutional Isomorphism? Taking up the assumptions of the first guiding thesis (cf. chapter 2.3.1), the present sub-chapter analyses whether the EES has led to a Europeanisation and institutional adaptation of existing domestic structures in the UK and Germany (cf. chapter 2.2.1) that led towards institutional isomorphism (cf. chapter among the institutions involved or whether national traditions prevailed, leading towards a pathdependent adaptation of existing institutional designs to the new supranational provision. It will, moreover, be examined, whether similar or different effects of the EES can be witnessed in the UK and in Germany and in how far different effects of the EES can be attributed to underlying domestic institutional traditions and to different systemic premises, defined as intervening variables (cf. chapter 2.2). 4.2.1 British Employment Policy Co-ordination: Integrated Leadership, Centralised Polity, ‘Trimmed Pluralism’, Few Veto Points, and the EES – ‘Strangers in the Night’? As outlined above (cf. chapter, the UK is characterised by a centralised polity, an integrated leadership that allows for only few veto points within the domestic political process and by social partners whose hands are partially tied by the chains of ‘trimmed pluralism’. Under these circumstances, the overall multilevel structural-procedural approach of the EES-PCN is rather unfamiliar to British domestic political structures and government traditions. The British NAP-related policy co-ordination process follows the general logics of British policy-making and co-ordination that is characterised by the above described three guiding principles of government: departmental responsibility, Cabinet responsibility and the strong position of the PM (cf. chapter The British part of the EES-PCN is led by the Department of Work and Pension (DWP). Further government departments involved in the domestic procedure setting up the NAP are • the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), concerned with the co-ordination of social partners and responsibility for employment relations legislation; • HM Treasury, responsible for the general orientation and all economic as well as budgetary implications of the British NAP as well as its consistency with the BEPG; • the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), engaged in activities related to training and lifelong learning; and • the Prime Minister’s Office, providing for an overall strategic view on the employment policy and the focus on equal opportunities.

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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.