The EU’s stricter economic governance: A step towards more binding coordination of social policies?

Research output: Working paperAcademic


This paper sets out to explore the changes in the EU’s coordination of employment and social policies after the introduction of stricter economic governance. It hypothesises that new economic governance has introduced characteristics of hard law into the soft law coordination cycles of employment and social policies. The paper analyses such steps towards hard law by exploring two routes. The first route is the introduction of new instruments in the coordination cycles of Europe 2020 and the Stability and Growth Pact and the implementation of two new coordination cycles, these being the Euro Plus Pact and the Macro-economic Imbalances Surveillance. The second route stems from the integration of policy fields which leads to ambiguity concerning what policy items fall within the scope of which coordination method. The paper therefore analyses the coordination elements that have been introduced as of 2010 and assesses their place on the continuum of hard and soft law coordination. Then, the paper explains the ambiguities that arise concerning the appropriateness of coordination instruments and how this ambiguity may bring employment and social policy elements within the range of hard law surveillance. Subsequently, the paper analyses the actual interaction between the EU and four member states by comparing national reports of 2009 and 2011 as well as the EU’s assessment of national policies. The paper concludes that whereas stricter economic coordination has increased the precision of soft governance as well as introduced more obligation and delegation into hybrid coordination methods, countries still have ample leeway to respond to EU level targets. In addition, ambiguity still exists concerning which coordination method applies to what policy items, leaving employment and social policies as potential subjects for hard law assessment via economic and financial coordination processes.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherWZB, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung
VolumeSP IV 2013–501
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • EU governance, soft law, labour law, economic governance


Dive into the research topics of 'The EU’s stricter economic governance: A step towards more binding coordination of social policies?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this