The Open Method of Coordination – Effectively preventing welfare state retrenchment?

Milena Büchs


This article re-examines the division between "optimists" and "pessimists" within the literature on the Open Method of Coordination’s (OMC) effectiveness. Each of those "camps" tends to focus on a different question. "Optimists" are more concerned with the question of whether the OMC exerts an influence on the national level and through which mechanisms, whilst "pessimists" concentrate on the question of whether the OMC can "strengthen" EU social policy and therefore European welfare states. This article combines these two perspectives and argues that the OMC is indeed capable of influencing national policies through the dissemination of ideas and "learning" as the "optimists" stress. However, policy "learning" at the member state level is shaped and constrained by a variety of internal and external pressures. Against the hopes of most of the OMC "optimists", this makes the OMC largely ineffective in preventing welfare state retrenchment.


soft law; Europeanisation; single market; stability and growth pact; welfare state; positive integration; negative integration; political science

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