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The Career of the Open Method of Coordination: Lessons from a 'Soft' EU Instrument

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This article examines the career of the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) as a policy instrument. Looking at the European Employment Strategy and the Lisbon Agenda, it shows that more has been accomplished than is often realised. It argues that the OMC's apparent fragility reflects an intrinsic tension, termed here the 'soft-law dilemma': it must ensure a constant supply of items to feed the EU agenda, whilst at the same time guaranteeing a level of institutional stability sufficient to allow effective policy delivery. To maintain both legitimacy and effectiveness, the OMC has learned to navigate between the extremes of all-out policy activism and bureaucratisation. As a result, the OMC has become an established form of socio-economic governance at EU level. A decade later, EU actors have the resources to take action in areas long associated with national sovereignty, thereby widening the scope and potential for a politicisation of the EU.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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