|glossary - The Open Method of Coordination|
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The Open Method of Coordination
The Open Method of Coordination (OMC) is becoming increasingly important as a new mode of governance in the European Union (EU). The European Agenda for Culture introduced its use in the cultural field.
Historically, the OMC can be seen as a reaction to the EU’s economic integration process of the 1990s. It was founded on the idea that a new cooperation framework had to be developed in the social realm as the community method cannot be used due to the principle of subsidiarity.
But if the OMC already appeared in the 1990s it was however only officially named, defined and endorsed at the Lisbon Council (2001) for the realm of social policy. The Lisbon Council coined the term and extended its application to several other policy areas, most notably social protection but also education and training. Since the Göteborg European Council (2001), it had also been applied in the area of immigration and asylum – sector not directly related to the Lisbon process.
The OMC rests on a voluntary association of states, on soft law mechanisms such as guidelines and indicators, benchmarking and sharing of best practice. The method’s effectiveness therefore relies on a form of peer pressure and naming and shaming.
Generally, the OMC works in stages. First, the Council of Ministers agrees on (often very broad) policy goals. Member states then transpose guidelines into national and regional policies. Thirdly, specific benchmarks and indicators to measure best practice are agreed upon. Finally, results are monitored and evaluated. However, the OMC differs significantly across the various policy areas to which it has been applied: there may be shorter or longer reporting periods, guidelines may be set at EU or Member State level and enforcement mechanisms may be harder or softer.
The OMC is more intergovernmental in nature than the traditional means in EU policy-making, the so-called community method. Because it is a decentralised approach through which agreed policies are largely implemented by the Member States and supervised by the Council of European Union, the involvement of the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice is very weak indeed.
Although, the OMC was devised as a tool in policy areas which remains the responsibility of national governments (and were the EU itself has no, or few legislatives powers) it is sometimes seen as a way for the Commission to “get a foot in the door” of a national policy area. To some extent, the OMC also provides the possible involvement of other actors that can contribute to realize a less virtual democracy than the representative one, in dialogue with civil society organisations.
Many factors can determine success or failure of an OMC, mainly:
The OMC, as defined by the Lisbon European Council, involves the following elements:
The above list provides an illustration of the most complete form of the method. It has to be noticed, however, that OMC processes vary considerably across policy areas.
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