The Open Method of Coordination – Obstinate or Obsolete?

61 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2016

See all articles by Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong

University of Cambridge; Centre for European Legal Studies

Date Written: September 16, 2016


For more than two decades, the European Union has been experimenting with forms of policy coordination as a means of seeking influence in domains of policy that more typically fall within the competence and political authority of its Member States. Across economic, employment and social policies, EU institutions, structures and process have attempted to open out domestic policymaking to the influence of external actors and shared normative frameworks. These experiments in European governance acquired a common nomenclature: the ‘open method of coordination’ (OMC). This article analyses the OMC and its relationship to law, in general, and to principles of EU law in particular. The analysis first clarifies the nature and application of the technique of policy coordination in the EU. It then considers the relationship between the OMC and principles of EU law. Two groups of principles are highlighted. The first group – the principles of conferral and subsidiarity; and democratic participation, openness and transparency – reflects the distribution of political authority across multiple levels that is engaged in policy coordination processes. The second group – the principles of effective judicial protection and the protection of fundamental rights – give procedural and substantive dimensions to the rule of law. The article concludes that techniques of policy coordination are far from obsolete and have even been developed and consolidated in the ‘meta-coordination’ architecture of the ‘European Semester’. Nonetheless, the capacity of law to capture the character and effects of policy coordination is evasive, with the relationship between policy coordination and core principles of EU law often proving to be less an encounter and more an estrangement.

Keywords: OMC European Semester, competence, subsidiarity, judicial review, EU Charter, fundamental rights, rule of law

JEL Classification: K2, K20, K29

Suggested Citation

Armstrong, Kenneth, The Open Method of Coordination – Obstinate or Obsolete? (September 16, 2016). University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 45/2016, Available at SSRN: or

Kenneth Armstrong (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Centre for European Legal Studies ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom


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