The Open Method of Coordination -An innovative tool of European governance?
In the light of the debate on the future of the European Union, a debate on new and better governance has started. One of the subjects of this debate is the Open Method of Coordination (OMC). It was initiated at the Lisbon European Council in 2000 as one of the ways to reach the strategic goals set for the EU at the same summit. Policy coordination was however applied in European policy- making before the Lisbon European Council. In the area of employment these activities had been operating for some years, and the OMC was created with the European Employment Strategy (EES) as a model. Now the OMC is also operating in the area of social inclusion policy, and a number of other policy areas. As its use is being extended, scholars as well as practitioners are studying it to determine its role and functions in EU governance.
This thesis aims at examining the open method of coordination, in an effort to position it in the European governance structure and discuss if it can be a sign of an emerging new mode of European governance.
Using a comparative approach, this thesis combines three methodologies; documentation analysis, interviews and case-studies. The analytical framework consists of existing modes of governance, as defined by Helen Wallace (2000). These are complemented with one more mode of governance. A discussion on governance in general and European governance in particular is also part of the analytical framework.
The OMC is studied by its definition and is further discussed from the view of the different European institutions. Finally a case study of its application in employment policy and social inclusion policy is presented. These findings are then set in relation to the governance modes in the analytical framework, in order to define and explain the OMC. A discussion of the notions of democracy and legitimacy is also held. The conclusions hold that the OMC is an interesting mix of multi-level governance, intensive transgovernmentalism and policy coordination and benchmarking. It also has interesting features of the innovative mode of network governance. This concludes that the OMC does not only build on innovative governance, but is an interesting balance between multi-level and intergovernmental governance. It is also based on notions of legitimacy rather than democracy.
Based on the findings in this thesis, the OMC should be seen as a sign of a new way of thinking about European governance. Its role should however not be exaggerated as most actors are very clear on it not being an alternative to ordinary Community action, and it should be seen as a complement rather than a substitute. The fact that the Convention on the future of Europe did not include the OMC into the draft constitutional treaty shows a somewhat ambivalent position towards it. It is concluded that the specific mix of governance features in the OMC is best served outside the treaty at this point.
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