Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 02/2015

Socializing the European Semester? Economic Governance and Social Policy Coordination in Europe 2020

Jonathan Zeitlin, Bart Vanhercke

October 2014

Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University


This paper analyzes how EU social objectives and policy coordination have been integrated into the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Union's emerging post-crisis architecture of economic governance. Based on published and unpublished documents as well as interviews with high-level policy makers, the paper argues that since 2011, there has been a progressive ‘socialization' of the ‘European Semester' of policy coordination, in terms of an increasing emphasis on social objectives and targets in the EU's priorities and country-specific recommendations; an intensification of social monitoring, multilateral surveillance, and peer review; and an enhanced role for social and employment actors, especially the Employment and Social Protection Committees. The paper interprets these developments not only as a response by the Commission and other EU institutions to rising social and political discontent among European citizens with the consequences of post-crisis austerity policies, but also as a product of reflexive learning and creative adaptation by social and employment actors to the new institutional conditions of the European Semester: another form of ‘socialization'.