Deconstructing EU old age policy: Assessing the potential of soft OMCs and hard EU law

Miriam Hartlapp


When it comes to EU old age policy, the political science literature primarily focuses on soft governance through the OMC (Open Method of Coordination) on social inclusion, pensions and health care. However, a mapping of EU old age policy instruments shows that developments started earlier and are broader and more influential. Employing a policy analysis perspective, I explore problem perceptions and actor constellations to explain the development of a number of directly or indirectly relevant policy instruments and discuss their (potential) effects. On this basis, I show that the governance capacity of soft steering instruments that seek to trigger reforms in the area of pensions is typically overvalued. In contrast, we tend to underestimate how much the EU shapes national room to manoeuvre on ageing and old age security through legislative instruments establishing individual rights for equal treatment or through the free movement of capital and persons. What is more, tracing when and how a range of instruments developed brings to the fore a number of different actors and arenas, interest constellations and conflict lines. Thus, contrasting with the OMCs, the present analysis provides for an understanding of EU governance as a complex, at times contradictory and inherently political process.


political science; Europeanization, governance, open coordination, directives; social policy

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