Rhodes, Martin and Goetschy, Janine and Mosher, Jim (2000) The Lisbon European Council and the Future of European Economic Governance. [Review Essay]
[Introduction by Mark A. Pollack, series editor]. THE PORTUGUESE PRESIDENCY, WHICH organized the work of the Council during the first six months of the year, was tasked with the heavy responsibility of organizing the opening months of the 2000 IGC (see Dinan and Vanhoonacker, this issue), yet the Portuguese also embarked on a major campaign to sponsor an academic and political debate on economic reform, and on the future of European economic governance. Throughout their presidency, the Portuguese sought to stimulate a debate on both the substance and process of European economic policymaking, proposing a "new strategic goal for the Union in order to strengthen employment, economic reform and social cohesion as part of a knowledge-based economy." Toward this end, the presidency commissioned a series of papers from both distinguished academics and EU institutions on subjects ranging from employment policy to the reform of the welfare state, modernization of public services, social inclusion, and the information society and e-commerce (for an on-line listing and texts of these reports, see Portuguese Presidency 2000). In March, the presidency organized a special European Council, which largely endorsed the Portuguese program of economic reform, with particularly detailed statements on the information society and the promotion of e-commerce. As important as the substance of the proposed reforms, however, is the process proposed by the Portuguese presidency, and endorsed by the Lisbon European Council, dubbed "open coordination." As Jim Mosher explains below, open coordination involves the establishment of common social policy guidelines, indicators and "benchmarks," which are intended to guide national policies through a process of policy coordination and peer evaluation. Although the practice of open coordination is not itself new, having been pioneered in recent years in a trio of joint policy processes (namely the Luxembourg Process on employment, the Cardiff process on structural reforms, and the Cologne process on macroeconomic policy coordination), the explicit endorsement of open coordination in Lisbon raises a number of important questions about the future of European economic governance, which are addressed by three ECSA members in this Forum. In the first essay, Martin Rhodes analyzes the outcome of the Lisbon European Council as a pragmatic effort by the EU to find a "Third Way" between the traditionally conflicting imperatives of economic efficiency and equality, and between the extremes of European harmonization and national autonomy. In the process, he suggests, the presidency has created a "new European architecture for social policy" which will rationalize existing processes under the umbrella of a broader economic strategy and an annual Spring meeting of the European Council. In the second essay, Janine Goetschy looks back at the record of open coordination in the most developed of the three current processes, the European Employment Strategy, noting both the strengths and the weaknesses of the process during its formative years. In the third and final essay, Jim Mosher places the emerging process of open coordination in the context of a broader move to "post-regulatory governance," which promises both functional and political advantages to member governments eager to cooperate in a flexible fashion, but also the familiar dangers of "voluntarism" and weak or uneven national implementation of common EU goals. Despite differences in emphasis and in levels of optimism about the future, all three essays echo Rhodes' conclusion that the Lisbon European Council is likely to emerge as a watershed in EU social policy, in terms of both the articulation of a new set of common policy goals for the member states, and the endorsement of new policy processes which may-or may not-serve to facilitate the achievement of those goals in the coming years.
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