Table of Contents: I. The place of the OMC in primary EU law. – II. The OMC and the principle of conferral. – III. Does the OMC produce soft law? – IV. Conclusion: Is the OMC part of the EU legal order?
Abstract: It is often said that the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) is a form of soft law and that it takes place outside the competences of the EU. This Article critically examines both these statements. It argues that OMC processes must, under the principle of conferral, be within the limits of the competences attributed to the EU by the Treaties, and that this is also the case in practice. It further argues that, whereas the OMC does produce soft law instruments in the field of employment, most of the other OMC processes produce neither hard nor soft law but policy documents which may or may not be taken into account by the Member States in the respective policy domains. The Article concludes that the OMC is a form of EU-level cooperation that operates within a legal framework defined by EU competences and the EU institutional balance, but that mostly does not use legal tools, either of the hard or soft variety, in its policy output.
Keywords: competences of the EU – principle of conferral – soft law – recommendations – employment guidelines – coordination of national policies.
* Professor of European Union Law, Maastricht University and European University Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org.