Vaasan yliopiston opinnäytteet

Hallintotieteiden tiedekunta, 2004

Heinonen, Noora

The open method of coordination in the European Union health policy

Ohjaaja/Valvoja (DI):
Esa Hyyryläinen
Hallintotieteiden maisteri
Julkisjohtamisen laitos
Hallintotiede : European Civil Servants - kansainvälisen hallinnon ohjelma
The aim of the study is to find out Finnish views on the open method of coordination (OMC) and to form a comprehensive understanding of the OMC in the European Union (EU) health policy. Health policy is understood in the EU as a part of social policy and as public health that is regulated by Treaty Article 152. The OMC is used in several policy fields, and it has been applied in the health policy since 2001. There are no judicial regulations of the OMC, and it is formed and agreed on by political decisions and agreements.

The OMC is a means to spread information, help member states to spread best practices and achieve greater convergence towards the goals of the Lisbon strategy. There are several steps to take when implementing the OMC into action. There is no formal model of progress for the OMC, but it usually proceeds as follows; (1) Common guidelines and timetables are set. (2) Indicators are established and benchmarked. (3) National and regional action plans are developed so that they correspond to the tasks and goals. (4) Action plans are monitored and evaluated in a peer review process.

The intention in this study was to formulate views by interviewing 13 Finnish politicians and civil servants, who in some way work with EU health policy issues. The study applied the method of individual, semi-structured interviews. The interviews were conducted in spring 2004. The method of inductive content analysis was applied to the research material.

The governance approach formed the theoretical framework of this study. This approach was explored in the dimensions of the OMC characteristics, decision-making and the principles of good governance. In this way it was possible to form a comprehensive insight into the OMC to be applied in the EU health policy.

The results of the study indicated that the Finnish actors interviewed in this study described the OMC primarily as flexible and a means for cooperation. The OMC was seen to benefit the achievement of goals. Some respondents acknowledged impacts of the OMC also on decision-making, and this aspect should be explored more closely. The question of power-division between the EU and the member states was discussed at large by most of the respondents. The impacts of the OMC on decision-making, the connections of the OMC with the principles of good governance as well as the question of responsibility in the use of the OMC were often discussed in this larger context.

The future prospects defined by the majority of the respondents indicated that there are mostly positive, but reserved attitudes towards the use of the OMC in the EU health policy. Negative views were also presented. Emphasis should be placed into planning, forming and implementing the OMC into the EU health policy so that it would produce genuine additional value. Furthermore, the OMC needs to be developed into a more coherent and well-designed tool where inputs, results and outcomes are in the right proportion.
open method of coordination, European Union, health policy, governance
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