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Judges as Policy Makers? Law under the Lisbon Strategy 2020

Final Report Summary - LAW2020 (Judges as Policy Makers? Law under the Lisbon Strategy 2020)

In 2010, the European Council agreed the outlines of a revised Lisbon ‘2020’ strategy – a policy framework designed to guide the EU’s social, economic and environmental progress in the coming decade. The last strategy – running from 2000 to 2010 – had mixed results, many of which were put down to a severe ‘implementation gap’. This ‘gap’ referred to a failure of policy-makers to translate EU goals into national practice, with much of the blame attributed to the weakness of Lisbon’s main policy-making instruments. The difficulties in implementing the last strategy leads to an obvious questions – if the previous strategy’s rather weak policy-making instruments were partly blame for the strategy’s failure, to what extent can more robust institutions, like the European Courts, play a greater role in delivering the strategy’s goals?

The aim of this study is to explore the role of law in the strategy: to what extent are the European Courts contributing to the implementation of the strategy across some of its main policy fields? The study’s objectives are to explore three elements of the Court’s role:
(i) Firstly, to identify the interaction between the policy goals sought under the strategy and the role of the EU Courts in executing the market freedoms and other rights protected under the EU Treaties in different fields.
(ii) Secondly, to examine the interaction between the European Courts and the strategy’s softer ‘new governance’ framework. How have the European Courts acted to improve the effectiveness or legitimacy of the Lisbon strategy’s policy-making instruments?
(iii) Finally, to draw comparisons between different policy fields – what are the differences in the role taken by the European Courts in implementing the strategy across different policy-making areas and what can this tell us about the broader effectiveness of the Lisbon 2020 framework?

During its years, the study has examined the interaction between the EU Courts and the EU policy-making process in 3 main fields – equality and employment policy, fiscal policy and social protection. As completed research on case-law and EU policy recommendations have revealed, the Euro crisis has had a significant bearing on the ability of the Lisbon strategy to deliver its targets in each of these domains. At the same time, the EU Courts have developed a relatively deferential approach towards EU policy-making in the social and economic domains during the crisis. These findings have been disseminated through several article and book publications, through presenting findings at international conferences, and through internal and external dissemination activities (in particular a high-level conference that took place in Berlin in June 2016).

By providing opportunities to collaborate with other researchers, publish in peer reviewed publications and develop new skills and methods in an inter-disciplinary research environment, the project has allowed the researcher to better integrate in the German and European academic systems. The project’s concrete outcomes in this respect are a tenured academic position and the ability to be competitive in other grant applications (such as a successful ERC Starting Grant, to be initiated in early 2017).