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The Strengths and Limits of New Forms of EU Governance: The Cases of Mainstreaming EU Social and Sustainable Development Policy

Simon Lightfoot

Since the mid-1990s, the EU has been experimenting with a variety of new forms of EU governance, including open methods of coordination, civil dialogue and mainstreaming. The roots of the mainstreaming policy strategy can be traced to tactics of environmental policy activists. However, in the EU it was social policy actors (particularly in gender policy) who were the first to make use of the strategy. Whilst this trend continues in the social policy field, EU documents are now increasingly referring to mainstreaming with regard to sustainable development policy, especially in terms of regional policy, structural funding and development policy. Our paper will examine recent developments in the mainstreaming of EU social and sustainable development policy and compare the histories of and debates surrounding these developments. By comparing attempts to mainstream EU social and sustainable development policy we will provide new insights into current developments in both policy fields as well as highlight the underlying strengths and weakness of the mainstreaming strategy and new forms of EU governance in general.

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