Gaby Umbach, The EES, the OMC, and Europeanisation: Impact without Analytical Grounds or a Case of ‘Phantom’ Adaptation Pressure? in:

Gaby Umbach

Intent and Reality of the European Employment Strategy, page 438 - 441

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
Final Conclusions 438 was also based on similar domestic constellations and party political priorities with the policy agendas of the social democratic (coalition) governments of the two countries dominated by similar problem perceptions and policy priorities. Finally, it needs to be highlighted, that the EES seems to probably be the most realistic way to slightly converge national employment policy approaches. Acknowledging that no common European labour markets exists and that the performance of national labour markets is largely based on a combination of domestic economic and structural problems, the EES offers a flexible framework for employment policy coordination, which can be adapted to national priorities. So, even if at first the EES must have seemed slightly ‘absurd’ a remedy for the European unemployment disease of the 1990s, European policy-makers proved to not have only been (roughly) right in deciding to co-ordinate EU member states’ employment policies in order to create common problem perceptions and understandings through supranational priority setting and ‘creeping’ Europeanisation of domestic employment policies. If European policy-makers had not taken this opportunity to amend the European socio-economic policy armoury by soft policy coordination through OMC, they would have actually indeed been precisely wrong in missing the chance to respond to common and internationalised problems, which were increasingly undermining the legitimacy of the European integration construction, its socio-economic foundations and its political institutions (cf. chapter 1.1). 6.2 The Europeanisation Approach, the EES, and the OMC: Theoretico-Analytical Mission Accomplished? In the light of the assumptions of the third guiding thesis, the final sub-chapter draws conclusions on the applicability of the Europeanisation approach to the analysis of domestic adaptation to the EES applying the OMC. The third guiding thesis assumed that 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. Final Conclusions 439 6.2.1 The EES, the OMC, and Europeanisation: Impact without Analytical Grounds or a Case of ‘Phantom’ Adaptation Pressure? As became evident within the empirical analysis, the adaptation of cognitive/normative structures is a core element within the process of Europeanisation through policy learning, lesson-drawing and international policy promotion that leads towards transnational problem-solving. This element links Europeanisation and the OMC given that one of the main instruments of the latter (cf. chapters and is policy learning by exchange of best practices and peer review. As outlined above, policy co-ordination through the OMC strongly focuses on ideational and ?-convergence towards common EU goals. Given that policy coordination “primarily involved learning processes through macro and micro crossloading” (Howell 2004a:6; cf. Bulmer/Radaelli 2004:7; Zandstra 2004:2), it mainly operates through soft policy instruments. By these means, the EES and the OMC are assessed to enforce domestic change through learning and Europeanisation of underlying ideas and paradigms. Even if such learning could also take place without the OMC, the method facilitates learning processes and reduces political costs (Radaelli 2004b:6) given that without “collective learning platforms such as the OMC .. policy-makers typically learn through crisis and sustained policy fiascos. The advantage of the OMC is that it can enable policy-makers to learn ahead of failure” (Bulmer/Radaelli 2004:12). Therefore, the EES/OMC have proven the “potential for learning in at least three directions: • EU-level learning within communities of policy-makers engaged in EU policy processes (or ‘learning at the top’), • hierarchical learning from the EU level down to the domestic and local level (or ‘learning from the top’), and • learning from below (i.e., social actors, regions, local governments) to the top (or ‘bottom up’ learning)” (Radaelli 2004b:21). Each of these elements forms a key mechanism of policy change induced by the EES that also changes and partially enhances the EU’s role in this co-ordination process, in which sovereignty remains with the member states (cf. Bache 2000:3; Bulmer/Padgett 2005:113; Holzinger/Knill 2005:782; Radaelli 2004a:8, 2004b:3; Zandstra 2004:12). Under these circumstances, the “EU acts not as a schoolmaster, but becomes a classroom where Member States can learn about each other’s practices, policies and methods” (Bomberg/Peterson 2000:12). These mechanisms build crucial bridges towards the theoretical re-conceptualisation of the Europeanisation impact of the EES given that policy learning “becomes an especially important feature where the EU does not work as a law-making system but, rather, as a platform for the convergence of ideas and policy transfer between member states” (Bulmer/Radaelli 2004:11; cf. Bulmer/Padgett 2005:104; Radaelli 2004b:3). This is even more important as no hierarchical mode of governance foresees the coercive adoption of a prescribed European model or forces member states to enter into com- Final Conclusions 440 petition with each other. At the same time, however, providing for an arena for exchange of ideas also contains the danger of bringing hierarchy back in, turning mutual horizontal policy learning into a vertically steered process of “learning from above rather that a manifesto of bottom-up learning” (Radaelli 2004b:5). Nevertheless, with the EES as a “learning architecture, between hierarchical and bottom-up learning” (Radaelli 2004b:7) and a mode of “facilitated unilateralism” (Bulmer/Padgett 2005:104) or “facilitated coordination … the EU … operates like a forum for discussion and a platform for policy transfer” (Radaelli 2004a:13). It employs elements of diffusion in a process of vertically stimulated policy transfer achieving ?-convergence towards the underlying ‘policy ID’ of the EES. So, the strategy does focus on ideational convergence within a process of voluntary trans- /supranational policy promotion. By doing so, it establishes a forum for exchange of experiences in order to provide governments with insight in and the opportunity to draw lessons from other countries’ policy solutions for domestic problem-solving activities (Holzinger/Knill 2005:783ff.; cf. Bomberg/Peterson 2000:19; Bulmer/Padgett 2005:107). The EES, thus, “produces opportunities for learning – the default explanation of Europeanisation for this mode” (Radaelli 2004a:13) and lays the ground for transnational problem-solving. Hence, with the EES and the OMC at work, the dimension of policy learning indeed became a crucial aspect of Europeanisation processes. With the new instrument, a different conceptual focus needs to be laid for the analysis of the impact on domestic change than for the analysis of Europeanisation processes in cases of governance by hierarchy within the Community method. With this shift, theoretically, national arrangements need not be congruous anymore with European provisions to not block Europeanisation, but more-or-less compatible with them. Hence, due to the lack of binding rules for implementation, structural and causal relations between the different political levels proved to be weaker and adaptation pressure is not that closely related to institutional and policy misfit anymore (Eising 2003:405), resulting in modest to weak policy change (Bulmer/Padgett 2005:124) ranging from accommodation/upgrading to inertia. At the same time, ‘ideational’ openness, and misfit becomes a more important element for the long-term adaptation of underlying cognitive/normative structures and, hence, for the Europeanisation impact of the OMC. Even if adaptation pressure in the case of the EES is, hence, not merely a ‘phantom’ one it is difficult to draw direct causal links between the EES/OMC and domestic change and to relate the latter directly to the Europeanisation impact of the former. So, in this particular case, “it is difficult to show that some domestic policy changes are the result of the open method of coordination rather than the consequences of domestic politics. It is, nevertheless, not easy to measure the power of soft law, learning, and peer pressure” (Radaelli 2004a:13). Hence, the outcomes of Europeanisation studies in the case of the EES/OMC are assessed to be rather difficultly attributed exclusively to the supranational provision given that neither causal links nor “a linear relationship between the emergence of ideas of good practice or Final Conclusions 441 policy at the EU level and domestic policy change” (Bulmer/Radaelli 2004:13) can to be explicitly drawn. The Europeanisation impact of the EES is directly based on mutual learning, exchange of best practices and expert deliberation on national employment policies. It proved to have led “to the cross-fertilisation of ideas and learning” (Bulmer/Radaelli 2004:7). Europeanisation, hence, became “much more voluntary and nonhierarchical. … The lack of supranational powers in these policy areas [, thus,] explains the horizontal pattern of Europeanisation” (Bulmer/Radaelli 2004:7) as no vertical EU policy model is prescribed. Therefore, Europeanisation by the EES conceptually tends more towards horizontal cross-loading than towards up- or down-loading processes (cf. Bulmer/Padgett 2005:104). Nevertheless, even though non-binding, the EU exerts the main stimulus for cross-loading so that policy co-ordination in the case of the EES can be assessed as a process of top-down Europeanisation, that is, a vertically ‘inspired’, ‘instigated’, ‘steered’ and ‘delegated’ cross-loading exercise closer to vertical cross-loading than to non EU-induced horizontal cross-loading (cf. Radaelli 2003a:41). 6.2.2 Explanative Benefits and the Need to Broaden the Analytical View in order to Explain Domestic Change and Persistence In line with the assumptions of the third guiding thesis and in the light of the previous sub-chapter, the Europeanisation approach indeed proved to be an analytical concept fitting to explain the emergence of the OMC as well as the impact of this new instrument on the adaptation at national level in the UK and Germany (cf. chapter 2.1.2). It, generally, proved to be valuable to explain the different degrees of impact in the UK and in Germany, both regarding employment policy co-ordination structures and employment policies as well as with a view to changes of underlying domestic cognitive/normative structures (cf. chapter 2.3.1 and 2.3.2). Moreover and in line with the assumption of a ‘logic of appropriateness’ (cf. chapter, cognitive/normative structures proved to be an important domain of Europeanisation to evaluate to impact of the EES. Due to changes in this particular domain, domestic structures and employment policies were adapted to the EES in the long-run given that policy learning by exchange among experts and the expansion of common ‘constitutive rules’ for employment policies (cf. chapter are key elements of the EES. As expected, a differential Europeanisation impact was found due to stronger exante misfit in Germany than in the UK. Yet, this differential impact was not caused by a fence-sitting position of Germany or a pace-setter role of the UK. Both countries responded rather equally to the Europeanisation pressures of the EES. Quite contrary to the assumed role models, stronger compliance in terms of policy output under the single areas of the EES was found in Germany than in the UK, given that– due to more unfavourable starting conditions–Germany had to invest stronger efforts to achieve ?-convergence. Hence, in line with the assumptions of the third guiding

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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.