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The influence of European framing on national agenda-setting: the case of employment policy reforms in France and Portugal

Helene Caune
Università degli Studi di Milano
Helene Caune
Università degli Studi di Milano
Open Panel

Abstract

The paper focuses on agenda setting and framing at the national and European level to explain the Europeanization of corporatist-conservative welfare systems (France and Portugal). Those countries are chosen as least-likely cases of Europeanization due to the distance between their traditional welfare schemes and European requirements. Yet, the recent welfare reforms do not only fits with European demands, but also crucially challenge the traditional welfare model in both country-cases. This paper will hence study the influence of the European Union (EU) in a field where it has no executive competences. The paper shows that the EU is a political sphere that allows for agendas, ideas and models to travel. To that extent, it relies on the literature on both agenda setting and policy transfers and is based on an extensive analysis of European documents (Communications of the Commission, Employment in Europe Reports…) national press coverage (one mainstream national newspaper per country) and national parliamentary debates about welfare reforms. It will hence shed light on the creation of a specific framing of welfare-related issues. It focuses on the European-framed concept of flexicurity, which aim is to combine flexibility (on the labour markets) and security (for the workers), two streams that have long been in conflict, if not considered by both academics and political stakeholders as mutually exclusive. The use of scientific expertise and national comparisons have allowed for the diffusion of this concept into national arenas as well as it has legitimized employment policy reforms, such as the flexibilisation of employment contracts. The paper will also show that domestic institutional settings (the power of trade unions and the institutions that allow experts to organize) and previous domestic framings (what is good/bad, what can reasonably been achieved) mediate the way this European framing impact national welfare reforms.