Policy Benchmarking in the European Union: Indicators and Ambiguities

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The Lisbon process is intended to move the European Union (EU) towards a dynamic but socially inclusive knowledge-based economy. Policy benchmarking through the 'Open Method of Coordination' is being applied to a wide range of relevant policy areas. This article considers the benchmarking indicators that are being used in relation to the knowledge-based economy on the one hand, social inclusion on the other. It examines the indicators that have been selected, the uses to which they are being put and their appropriateness for policy coordination, policy learning and performance improvement. It explores three ambiguities or tensions that they reveal. First, the article argues that being in part the offspring of the process of monetary union, the OMC is being used to track progress towards a single future, rather than to expose the range of possible alternative futures and the trade-offs they involve. Second, whereas the goal of the Lisbon process is a dynamic knowledge-based economy, the article argues that the benchmarking indicators are remarkably static and it sets out what dynamic indicators would be more appropriate. Finally, whereas patterns of social and economic development are increasingly shaped by global processes, the Lisbon process remains focussed on action at the national level: the article argues the case for a stronger global dimension for indicators of change. The article concludes by considering the implications of its findings for governance and accountability in the EU.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-132
Number of pages16
JournalPolicy Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


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