ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

The Fifth Freedom: Sanctions, Compliance and Soft Policy Instruments.

Mark Field
University of Portsmouth
Mark Field
University of Portsmouth
Open Panel

Abstract

Building on OMC research, this paper seeks to understand the processes through which European Union (EU) member states (MSs) relinquish sovereignty over Higher Education policy. By expanding Buchs’ (2008) depiction of the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) as a two level game, it proposes that soft policy instruments encourage MSs to shift competence from MS to EU level by providing sufficient flexibility such that each MS government may maximise the benefits of cooperation whilst simultaneously presenting itself favourably to national electorates. At the same time, despite the voluntary and non-coercive nature of soft policy instruments, they produce their own ‘soft sanctions’ that drive cooperation. The paper proceeds through two sections. The first examines the broader question raised by this paper as to why an individual MS willingly relinquishes power in the politically sensitive policy domain. It suggests that the nature of the OMC provides a measure of explanation as, by acting as a non-coercive mechanism without formal sanctions, it is able to drive integration by promoting norms through the application of informal sanctions. The second section argues that this is not unique to the OMC and that signatories to the Bologna process have, from its inception, been subject to similar ‘soft sanctions’ through the mechanisms of the Sorbonne and Bologna follow-up groups (SFUG/BFUG). The paper concludes by arguing that, as it was Bologna’s soft instruments that drove the shift of HE policy, their use in the broader policy areas addressed by the education OMC suggest potential implications for the locus of policy-making and – by extension – the national sovereignty of individual MSs.