Open method of coordination (OCM) - Main contents
This procedure is one of the special legislative procedures used in the European Union. The open method of coordination (OMC) is applied to policy areas where member states are in full control, but where they also wish to coordinate their policies on a particular subject. Decisions that are based on the open coordination method are non-binding; member states are not held accountable for whether or not they implement decisions. The procedure is not part of the European treaties.
The procedure in short: a proposal is submitted to the Council of Ministers. The Council, in cooperation with the European Commission, then determine objectives. The member states then have the responsibility to meet the set objectives, supported by the Commission. The European Parliament seldom plays a role in this procedure.
Step 1: initiative
A member state, a group of member states or the European Commission submits a proposal to the Council of Ministers.
Step 2: agreeing on commitments
The member states, supported by the European Commission and taking into account existing European policies, negotiate the objectives, the neccessary steps to achieve those objectives, as well as the method by which to asses the progress of implementation of the objectives. The European Parliament acts as an advisory body.
The Council of Ministers confirms the agreements made between the member states.
Step 3: implementation and control of the agreements
With the OMC the implementation is part of the procedure. Member states develop national action plans that are based upon the agreements. Member states exchange information about the best ways to achieve the set objectives.
With help from the member states the Commission monitors the progress in implementating the agreements. The general idea is that member states are motivated to achieve objectives and avoid lagging behind compared to the progress made by other member states.
Since the open method of coordination is not part of the European treaties and no set agreement on the procedure has been formally agreed upon, no specific voting method has been determined. In practice the member states try to reach a consensus.
The European Council has introduced this procedure in order to facilitate the coordination of economic policy between member states, a principal agreed on in the European Treaties. Following its introduction the Commission has set rules on how to make use of the OMC. For example, it is not allowed to use the procedure for policy areas that fall within the bounds of the European treaties. Nor are proposals allowed to nullify achievements of the European Union or try to change goals laid down on in European treaties. In practice this procedure is used mostly in policy areas such as education, employment and social policy and medical care. For the most part these are policy areas where the member states retain full national authority. Regardless, the OMC can still be used for important policy initiatives such as the EU 2020 strategy.
The OMC has not been formally documented. The basic framework for this procedure has been laid down by the European Commission in a 2001 report.