Good Governance in the Slovenian Employment and Education Policy Fields: Myth or Reality?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Civil society has become a fashionable concept in political science, closely associated with democracy and representation (Almond and Verba, 1965; Putnam, 2002). Its significance has increased remarkably after the fall of communist systems in Central and Eastern Europe. As Communist Europe lacked an independent civil society for almost half of a century, a major focus in the 1990s was "to build civil society" as a key precondition for a successful transition to a market economy. The Civil Society Index (CSI) research found that this "weakness" was caused by a limited degree of citizen participation and the lack of financial resources available to civil society organisations. Moreover, the CSI noted that the political and cultural environment in post-communist countries has been affected by institutional deficiencies (i.e. the weak rule of law, widespread corruption and low institutional effectiveness) and limited social capital. This also hampered the strengthening of civil society. In general, civil society organisations in post-communist countries adhere to universally accepted values, but often failed to promote them. Furthermore, their impact on policymaking and their capacity to meet societal needs have been limited.

Nowadays, the importance of civil society (71) is widely acknowledged in promoting new modes of governance within the European Union (EU). NGOs can play a vital role in reducing the EU's democratic deficit and can contribute to greater respect for the principles of good governance. New modes of governance are especially relevant for post-socialist new EU member states, as they often lack the adequate mechanisms of accountability and the institutional forums for open and transparent interaction between the government and civil society (Copsey and Haughton, 2009). In this regard, the EU supports the establishment of a sustainable cooperation between civil society organisations and the state (e.g. government, bureaucracy). In the case of policy fields where the harmonisation of the legislation is not (or not entirely) "EU-prescribed", as it is the case for employment and education, the chief hope for increasing the role of civil society has been placed on the Open Method of Coordination (OMC). The OMC as a new mode of European governance holds considerable potential to change and improve policies in individual EU member states. Besides changing the policy content in order to achieve EU common goals, a great emphasis has been put on its potential to improve the openness of the policymaking processes in member states. As the OMC has been formally introduction more than ten years ago, it is time to evaluate whether these expectations were met. Hence, the main research question of this article is: what is the potential of the OMC in promoting the participation of civil society in the process of policy-making, in the fields of employment and education in Slovenia? We will address this question in two steps. Firstly, by developing a research model which takes into consideration the theoretical presumptions of new (soft) modes of governance and Europeanization processes. Secondly, by conducting two case studies, one from each policy field: active ageing in the framework of employment policy and lifelong learning (with special emphasis on adult education) in the framework of education policy.

The article analyses the Slovenian legislation and other official documents as well as EU official documents governing employment and education policies together with other data concerning Slovenia's EU cooperation in these fields. -The authors have also conducted interviews with relevant officials in Slovenia during the period from 2008 to 2011. The information obtained via semi-structured interviews provided an additional insight into the investigated process and were used to clarify certain aspects which we not covered by official documents.

Theoretical argument and research model

The process of European integration has increasingly been shaped by the recent activities of the groups and lobbyists representing societal interests such as consumers, environmentalists, women's groups, and others (Wallace, 2010: 86-87). …