Nuria Ramos Martin and Minna van Gerven (AIAS)
ETOS.BE research builds on the acknowledgement that the interaction between the EU and member state levels is a two-way process. Indeed, the governments of the member states are not simply confronted with initiatives coming from Brussels, since they are actively involved in their formulation. Therefore, shaping (uploading ideas, interests, and policies to the EU) and taking of EU social policies (downloading or implementation of ideas or policies by member states) cannot be analyzed separately, if one wants to make credible claims about the impact of EU policies at the domestic level.
In a nutshell, the ETOS.BE project deals thus with the ‘Europeanization of social policy'. The aim of the project is to understand whether, to which extent, and how the use by the European Union of different instruments of public intervention in social affairs produces different impacts on social policy.
To be more precise, the core research question of ETOS.BE is the following: Does the use of legislation, structural funds, social dialogue, and OMC, respectively, have a different impact on employment, pensions and gender equality policies, and why?
For this purposes, two case studies have been conducted in the Netherlands in the area of employment and gender equality policies. Derived from interviews of key policy makers both at national and EU level, we have tried to capture whether the Dutch actors have been able to upload some of their policy preferences in the areas of activation and gender equality policies to the EU level, and how these policies coming from EU have been implemented at the national level.
In the area of gender equality we focused on a rather ‘hard' instrument such as legislation, and on a ‘hybrid' one such as social dialogue, whereas for activation policies we analyzed the use of more ‘softer' instruments such as the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) and the use of European Social Fund.
As preliminary results, on the uploading perspective of the Europeanization process, we can claim that the Dutch have been rather successful in bringing forward several ideas (e.g., active approach for the unemployed and part-time work) to the European social agenda. On the downloading dimension of the process, in both fields under assessment, the findings achieved so far show that the legislation and policies set out at the EU level have been reasonably well received and transposed into the Dutch legal and political framework.
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