The Cultural Open Method of Coordination
According to Articles 2(5) and 6 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), culture forms part of the policy areas in which the European Union (EU or the Union) shall have competence to carry out actions that 'support, coordinate or supplement' the actions of the member states, without superseding national competences. On the basis of Article 167 TFEU, the Union has engaged for years in what should essentially be seen as supporting action in the realm of culture through various funding tools, devised to encourage cultural cooperation between the member states. In light of Article 167(4) TFEU, the Union has also sought to cope with the cultural implications of its various policies (Psychogiopoulou, 2008).
The European Commission (Commission)'s communication on a European agenda for culture in a globalizing world (Cultural Agenda) (European Commission, 2007a) opened a new chapter of cultural cooperation at the EU level. For the first time, the European institutions, the member states and civil society were invited to pool their efforts together on concrete cultural policy goals. The Cultural Agenda also envisaged new working methods, such as pursuing a Structured Dialogue (SD) with cultural stakeholders and launching a cultural open method of coordination (OMC). In suggesting the setting up of a cultural OMC, the Commission explained that the OMC was suitable for policy fields where competence remained primarily with the member states. It consisted of 'agreeing on common objectives, regularly following up progress towards them and exchanging best practice and relevant data in order to foster mutual learning' (ibid.: 12).
Heralded as a new instrument of EU governance in the 2000 Lisbon European summit (European Council, 2000), the OMC has attracted much attention in legal and political science literature. Basically, it has been viewed as a valuable instrument for committing member states to the attainment of joint goals without requiring the homogenisation of domestic policy regimes (Hemerijck and Berghman, 2004; Zeitlin, 2005). Scholars have underlined its potential to promote experimental learning, insofar as it induces member states to exchange information, compare and reappraise their policy practices (Sabel and Zeitlin, 2010), and to open up the policy-making process to civil society and subnational actors (Cohen and Sabel, 2003; Telo, 2002). However, the OMC has also been criticised for allowing the EU to erode national competences (Sypris, 2002); for being democratically illegitimate, since it bypasses parliamentary scrutiny (Buchs, 2008; Dawson, 2011); and for being often based on unaccountable processes (de la Porte and Nanz, 2004; Smismans, 2004).
The purpose of this chapter is to explore the cultural OMC and the changes it brings in for EU cultural action. The following section investigates the European institutions' initial positioning on the idea of a cultural OMC. The next sections discuss how the cultural OMC unfolded through two distinct cycles: 2008-2010 and 2011-2014. The analysis continues with an examination of the interrelationship of the cultural OMC with national cultural policies and the cultural endeavours of the EU institutions, followed by some concluding remarks.