On the European level, labour market policies are a politically highly sensitive topic. While the integration process in other policy fields, especially monetary policy, is almost completed, or has made considerable progress, as in the field of education, labour market policies are still mainly a national concern. Some progress was made by creating the European Employment Strategy in 1997 and introducing the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC), but the common targets to be met remained at a rather vague level. The Lisbon Process - started in 2000 and amended in 2001 by the Stockholm European Council Meeting - may be seen as a "kick- off", since concrete employment targets were written down and for the first time employment targets explicitly were formulated as "hard facts", as concrete numbers to be reached. But the goals to be achieved still remained at a quantitatively and qualitatively low level. These targets comprised an overall European employment rate of 70% and an employment rate for women of more than 60% and a 50% employment target for older workers aged 55-64 (Weishaupt/Lack in this volume).
In 2010, the deadline for the Lisbon Process expired. As it turned out, member states performed very differently regarding the fulfillment of the employment quota as a whole, but also regarding quotas for women and the elderly. Therefore, it is necessary to take a close look at the concrete national results, and the reasons why some countries did better than others with respect to labour market performance. Hence, an examination of the instruments deployed, but also the implementation and transformation processes is needed. Such a discussion of the different national results and programs may help to understand the complex interactions between collectively agreed goals on the European level and the dynamics of national politics.
The core of this special issue volume is built around contributions dealing with the European integration process in the field of labour market policies concerning transition processes of different socio-demographic groups like women, elderly people, young people, unemployed and non-standard employees. Women and elderly are groups the Stockholm strategy dealt with, while for the integration of the other groups, no explicit targets were formulated in Stockholm, but it was a topic ranging high on the European employment policy agenda. The first contribution of the volume, however, is a more general contribution focusing on the origins and development of the European Employment Strategy, assessing the status quo and providing an outlook of the European 2020 strategy. The volume is completed by a discussion of European "hard law" in the field of labour market policies: the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice that increasingly affects national industrial relation systems.
The first article by Timo Weishaupt and Katja Lack assesses the status quo of the European Employment Strategy (EES). Weishaupt and Lack underline that the EES is the European Union's main instrument to co-ordinate Member States' reform efforts in the area of labour market and social policies. They describe that since its launch in 1997, it has undergone various changes, both in its governance and its policy...