The European Union benchmarking experience. From euphoria to fatigue?
Even if one may agree with the possible criticism of the Lisbon process as being too vague in com-mitment or as lacking appropriate statistical techniques and indicators, the benchmarking system pro-vided by EUROSTAT seems to be sufficiently effective in warning against imminent failure. The Lisbon objectives are very demanding. This holds true even if each of the objectives is looked at in isolation. But 'Lisbon' is more demanding than that, requiring a combination of several objectives to be achieved simultaneously (GDP growth, labour productivity, job-content of growth, higher quality of jobs and greater social cohesion). Even to countries like Ireland, showing exceptionally high performance in GDP growth and employment promotion during the period under investigation, achieving potentially conflicting objectives simultaneously seems to be beyond feasibility. The European Union benchmark-ing exercise is embedded in the context of the Open Method(s) of Co-ordination (OMC). This context makes the benchmarking approach part and parcel of an overarching philosophy, which relates the benchmarking indicators to each other and assigns to them their role in corroborating the increasingly dominating project of the 'embedded neo-liberalism'. Against this background, the present paper is focussed on the following point. With the EU bench-marking system being effective enough to make the imminent under-achievement visible, there is a danger of disillusionment and 'benchmarking fatigue', which may provoke an ideological crisis. The dominant project being so deeply rooted, however, chances are high that this crisis will be solved im-manently in terms of embedded neo-liberalism by strengthening the neo-liberal branch of the Euro-pean project. Confining itself to the Europe of Fifteen, the analysis draws on EUROSTAT's database of Structural Indicators. ...
benchmarking; governance; policy learning; employment policy; social policy; open coordination; political science
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