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

51 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2014

See all articles by Jonathan Zeitlin

Jonathan Zeitlin

University of Amsterdam

Bart Vanhercke

University of Amsterdam

Date Written: October 1, 2014


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 Based on published and unpublished documents as well as interviews with high-level policy makers, the paper argues that since 2011, there has been a progressive ‘socialization’ of the ‘European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’.

Keywords: European Union, Social Europe, economic governance, social policy, employment policy, Europe 2020, European Semester, policy coordination, Country-Specific Recommendations, Open Method of Coordination, peer review, multilateral surveillance, performance monitoring, policy learning

Suggested Citation

Zeitlin, Jonathan and Vanhercke, Bart, Socializing the European Semester? Economic Governance and Social Policy Coordination in Europe 2020 (October 1, 2014). Watson Institute for International Studies Research Paper No. 2014-17, Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Zeitlin (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Amsterdam Roeterseilandcampus
Nieuwe Achtergracht 166
Amsterdam, 1018 WV

Bart Vanhercke

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB

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