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The Operation of the Social Protection and Social Inclusion OMC in Belgium: A Hybrid Policy Instrument between Hard and Soft Law

Vanhercke, Bart. (2007) The Operation of the Social Protection and Social Inclusion OMC in Belgium: A Hybrid Policy Instrument between Hard and Soft Law. In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)

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    Abstract

    [From the introduction]. Many more examples could be given, but the general picture is clear: the OMCs have been weighed on the scales and found wanting by mainstream academic literature. These sceptical views seems to be in sharp contrast with the views expressed by many actors involved in the Open method of Coordination on Social Protection and Social Inclusion. Indeed, the general picture emerging from a (formal) large-scale evaluation are critical, but at the same time they (strongly) support these processes (European Commission, 2005). This conclusion is corroborated by (informal) interviews with individual civil servants and social partner representatives from the 10 new Member States (CEEC) (Vanhercke, 2007). In other words, those involved in the OMC have also weighed it on the scales, but have not at all found it wanting. Finally, the abovementioned academic views seem to contrast with a recent Report from the European Parliament, in which the Committee on Legal Affairs warns against the “indirect legal effects” of soft law which is “liable to circumvent the influence of the other (democratic) instruments” and would “allow the executive effectively to legislate by means of soft-law instruments, thereby potentially undermining the Community legal order” (European Parliament, 2007:4-5). The remainder of this paper will be devoted to piecing the empirical puzzle that emerges from the previous paragraphs: on the hand, the outright sceptical views with regard to the OMC held by recent mainstream academic literature; on the other hand continued (and potentially increasing) support for this method from many of the actors who are involved in it. More particularly, we will develop one possible explanation for the continuing support of many actors, namely the hypotheses that the actors experience that this ‘soft’ mode of governance is quite a bit harder, and much more useful, in practice than they had thought, or than most academics seem to grasp so far. We try to provide empirical evidence to solve this puzzle, by looking at the actual operation in a Belgian context of one of the OMC’s, namely the Social Protection and Social Inclusion OMC (SPSI OMC), and more particularly its Social Inclusion strand. In the next section, we will begin by briefly developing a theoretical perspective which we see as fit to assess the OMC effectiveness at the national level. In section 2 we will describe, for each of the dimensions of the theoretical framework, whether there is any evidence of ‘real’ impact in Belgium.

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    Social Networking:
    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Open Method of Coordination (OMC); Social Protection and Social Inclusion OMC (SPSI OMC).
    Subjects for non-EU documents: Countries > Belgium
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > law & legal affairs-general (includes international law)
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > social policy > general
    EU policies and themes > EU institutions & developments > institutional development/policy > decision making/policy-making
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series: UNSPECIFIED
    ["eprint_fieldname_eusries" not defined]: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2007 (10th), May 17-19, 2007
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2008
    Page Range: p. 22
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:51
    URI: http://aei.pitt.edu/id/eprint/8055

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