This paper identifies three ’harder’ – potentially more constraining – features of existing OMCs (employment and social inclusion), explains why they are ‘hardening’, and draws lessons for the Energy Union. The first ‘harder’ element is ‘EU benchmarks and national targets’, where the former signals EU commitment and sets direction over the medium term, while the latter bind member states to develop policy in line with EU strategic priorities. The second harder element is ‘two-level policy dialogue’, referring to two-level administrative coordination – around national reports, EU assessment of member state performance and Country Specific Recommendations. ‘Two-level policy dialogue’ is ‘hardening’, because it is structured around the key EU aims, priorities and benchmarks, but at the same time targeted at each individual member state. The third harder element is ‘policy entrepreneurs’, as such individuals are capable of mobilizing high-level political commitment at the EU and member state levels. We assess that these three elements together contribute to a ‘hardening’ – and thus potential to change policy – of OMC-type governance, which is already taking place in Energy Union. We also note that two other factors – institutional capabilities and financial resources – are crucial in conjunction with Energy Union.
(2020) Lessons about the ‘Harder’ elements of OMC governance for the EU energy Union, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 22:6, 830-842,