Studies in EU Reform and Enlargement series
Edited by Udo Diedrichs, Wulf Reiners and Wolfgang Wessels
Chapter 3: Classifying and Mapping the OMC in Different Policy Areas
Colin Shaw INTRODUCTION Before assessing the impact of the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) on actual policies, it is worth noting its impact on the academic community, notably but not exclusively on those scholars who focus on European ‘governance’. For these thinkers the OMC was, arguably, a ‘godsend’. Two features guaranteed its importance to these researchers: first, it was ‘new’, that is a self-proclaimed and well-defined departure from existing practice that could be studied in situ and whose impact could be measured against the ‘old’ system. Second, it was clearly ‘governance’, that is a set of practices that worked outside the strictures of ‘government’ (in the case of the European Union, the legislative process) and whose methods were more open, experimental and potentially effective. The OMC was therefore seized upon by numerous researchers because of its promise of innovation in the field of European policy-making (new instruments) and because it seemed to extend the boundaries of policy-making to new areas traditionally beyond its realm (new policies). Changing and extending the scope of European integration seemed to be the early promise of the OMC. Hundreds of speculative papers immediately attempted to describe the potential importance of the method. Not only did the method itself seem to proliferate widely (as we shall see below), but interest in it grew as scholars sought to analyse the first findings of the many empirical studies that accompanied its launch. There was, and to a certain extent still is, an ‘OMC bubble’ – an over-emphasis on its...
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