Building the Knowledge Economy in Europe

Building the Knowledge Economy in Europe

New Constellations in European Research and Higher Education Governance

New Horizons in European Politics series

Edited by Meng-Hsuan Chou and Åse Gornitzka

Building the Knowledge Economy in Europe investigates the integration of emerging knowledge policy domains on the European political agenda, and the dynamics of this in relation to knowledge policies. Professors Meng-Hsuan Chou and Åse Gornitzka bring together leading experts who address the two central pillars of the ‘Europe of Knowledge’, research and higher education, to reveal the vertical, horizontal and sequential tensions in European knowledge governance

Chapter 7: How strong are the European Union's soft modes of governance? The use of the Open Method of Coordination in national policy-making in the knowledge policy domain

Åse Gornitzka

Subjects: education, education policy, management and universities, innovation and technology, knowledge management, politics and public policy, education policy, european politics and policy, social policy and sociology, education policy


The use of European Union (EU) hard law is a key component of European integration (Katzenstein 2005). Consequently, the implementation of law has been a major theme in studying how European governance output affects national level policies and polities (Treib 2008). However, softer modes of governance have been present in parallel to the use of hard law, and as European integration has developed and progressed in areas where there is little transfer of legal competencies to EU institutions new modes have been added to the hard vs soft law/ modes of governance continuum. The focus of this chapter is on the EU's Open Method of Coordination (OMC) that emerged in the framework of the EU's Lisbon Strategy. It is a poignant case of a kind of soft mode of governance that does not establish precise, binding and enforceable rules (Abbott and Snidal 2000). This has begged the question whether and in what way European governance outputs can have an impact on domestic policies outside the incorporation of European legal acts into national legal corpus (harmonization) or without the recourse to material sanctions. This question also links to the parallel research in international relations where there has been an enduring interest in non-legal means of governance at the level beyond the nation state. The angle offered in this chapter is not about the (relative) effectiveness of the OMC as such.

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