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ISSN 1813-6826      

EUROGOV No. C-05-04
Jonathan Zeitlin

Social Europe and Experimentalist Governance: Towards a New Constitutional Compromise?

Published: May 30, 2005


This paper examines the normative, empirical, and constitutional debates surrounding the use of the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) in European social policy. The OMC is an experimentalist approach to European Union governance, based on benchmarking national progress towards European objectives and organized mutual learning. Its potential benefits include reconciling the pursuit of common European concerns with respect for legitimate national diversity, and encouraging cross-national learning through comparison of different approaches to similar problems across the EU's 25 Member States. The paper responds to three critical questions concerning the OMC’s legitimacy (its relation to subsidiarity, the ‘Community Method’, and democracy), before going on to assess the findings of recent empirical research on its effectiveness in terms of policy change, governance, and mutual learning. I argue that both the democratic legitimacy and the practical effectiveness of existing OMC processes could be improved by reflexively applying to its own procedures key elements of the method itself, such as benchmarking, peer review, monitoring, and iterative redesign. The paper concludes by reviewing the debate over the incorporation of the OMC into the new Constitution, and considering its implications for the future of experimentalist governance in the EU.

Keywords: open coordination, social policy, governance, legitimacy, subsidiarity, democracy, participation, policy learning, European Convention, Constitution for Europe

Jonathan Zeitlin – University of Wisconsin-Madison

© 2005 Jonathan Zeitlin

Citing this EUROGOV paper:
Zeitlin, Jonathan. 2005. Social Europe and Experimentalist Governance: Towards a New Constitutional Compromise? European Governance Papers (EUROGOV) No. C-05-04,

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