‘Soft law’, new governance and the Employment Strategy
Adopting a critical perspective on the new ‘open method of coordination’, this chapter argues that, through its creative use of soft law mechanisms, the evolving European Employment Strategy has the potential to fashion a middle course through the regulatory choices facing the EU, between full harmonisation, on the one hand, and mutual recognition or regulatory competition, on the other. The chapter claims that the ‘soft’ coordination of the open method does in fact have quite a ‘hard’ impact, placing powerful political pressure on Member States to comply with centrally designed policies, and constraining their policy choices. It also questions whether — in the context of an explicitly ‘hard’ economic policy coordination backed by sanctions — a form of governance which eschews centralised social policy norms can adequately ensure a core of social rights, below which no Member State can fall.
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