Hardening and softening of country-specific recommendations in the European Semester

Sonja Bekker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    This article conceptualises and illustrates hardening and softening trends in country-specific recommendations (CSRs) that are part of the European Semester. It proposes an analytical framework that meets the specific characteristics of CSRs: its adaptable and non-uniform norms, which are co-determined by actors operating across governance levels. It proposes three elements to analyse hardening and softening of CSRs, adding the degree of ‘centralisation’ to the often used elements of ‘obligation’ and ‘enforcement’. Then it illustrates the framework with trends in CSRs given to Belgium and the Netherlands on pensions and wages. Both countries and topics show hardening as well as softening trends regarding the degree of obligation, enforcement and centralisation. The article suggests that a complete analysis of hardening and softening of CSRs requires assessing the degree of centralisation as well. Looking at obligation and enforcement alone could misinterpret the hardness or softness of CSRs.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)114-133
    Number of pages20
    JournalWest European Politics
    Issue number1
    Early online date2020
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021


    • European Semester
    • EU governance, EU social policy, economic governance
    • Pensions
    • Wages
    • social partners


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