23 SES 12 A, Resisting Neoliberalism in an Era of Risk: Local, national and transnational perspectives: Part 2
Symposium continued from 23 SES 09 A
Education policy occupies an ambiguous and sometimes uncomfortable place in the context of the European Union. Formally it is a national competence and the European Union has no jurisdiction over education policy in Member States. In practical terms it is an area where the union’s ‘soft power’ is often at its most visible with significant policy convergence in key areas (Lawn and Grek, 2012). Moreover, as Europe slowly emerges from economic crisis and austerity the European Commission has placed education at the heart of a renewed commitment to a ‘social Europe’ (see the plans for a European Education Area and the prominent placing of education in the European Pillar of Social Rights). Each year the European Commission provides ‘Country Specific Recommendations’ to each Member State as part of the European Semester process and a significant number of CSRs relate to education. The concern is that the European Semester acts principally as the enforcer of the EC’s rules governing fiscal responsibility and therefore recommendations relating to education are not only subordinated to economic rules (Costamagna, 2013), but also focus narrowly on the development of human capital and the mobility of labour as key features of the single market. This paper analyses the role of education in the European Semester and identifies the dominant discourses that shape European education policy in its recommendations to Member States (Stevenson et al, 2017). It will also identify how civil society organisations (education trade unions and pressure groups) have sought to ‘open up’ the Semester process to popular pressure. The paper evaluates whether the European Semester represents a serious commitment to a social Europe (Crespy and Schmidt, 2017), or a form of ‘elite reform’(Hyman, 2015) that fails to tackle the power of capital and pays lip service to notions of popular democratic participation. It also questions the capacity of ‘social partners’, such as education unions, to make a meaningful impact on a process that appears far removed from the everyday lives of European citizens (Sabato and Vanchercke with Spasova, 2017). The study is based on two European Commission funded research studies into the workings of the European Semester. The first completed in 2017 (focused on Malta, Italy, Slovenia, Denmark and Lithuania) and the second on-going (focused on Italy, France, Estonia, Demark and Ireland). Data was collected key policy actors (EC officials, Ministry officials, senior union officers) in the European Commission and in Member States.
Costamagna, F. (2013). The European Semester in Action: Strengthening Economic Policy Coordination While Weakening the Social Dimension? LPF-WEL Working Paper No. 5. Available at: SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2367768 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2367768 Crespy, A. and Schmidt, V. (2017). The EU’s economic governance in 2016: beyond austerity? In B.Vanhercke, S. Sabato and D. Bouget (Eds.). Available online at: https://www.etui.org/Publications2/Books/Social-policy-in-the-European-Union-state-of-play-2017 Hyman, R, (2015). Three scenarios for industrial relations in Europe. International Labour Review, 154 (1): 5-14. Lawn, M. & Grek, S. (2012). Europeanizing education: Governing a new policy space, Oxford: Symposium Books. Sabato, S. and Vanhercke, B. with Spasova, S. (2017) Listened to, but not heard? Social partners multilevel involvement in the European Semester, OSE Paper Series. Brussels: European Social Observatory. Stevenson, H. Hagger-Vaughan, L. Milner, A, Winchip, E. (2017). Education and training policy in the European Semester: public investment, public policy, scoial dialogue and privatisation patterns across Europe, Brussels: ETUCE.
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