INTRODUCTION At the Lisbon European summit in 2000, the Union set itself an ambitious goal for the next decade: ‘to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’. With a view to realise this socio-economic agenda, ‘a [new] open method of coordination’ (OMC) was introduced ‘as the means of spreading best practice and achieving greater convergence towards the main EU goals’. The Lisbon strategy built upon previous coordination processes in the economic (Broad Economic Policy Guidelines, 1992) and employment (European Employment Strategy, 1997) fields so that the OMC was new only to the extent that it provided a new legitimising discourse around which past and novel practices could crystallise. Since then, the OMC has become ‘the central tool of EU social policymaking in the new millennium’, for, the social inclusion process , established in 2000 with a view ‘to make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty’, would later be complemented by a pensions process (2001) and a health care and long-term care process (2004). As from 2006, the three processes were streamlined into a single social OMC with the following elements: – Common objectives were endorsed by the European Council in March 2006, with both overarching and specific objectives for each strand of the social OMC; – Common indicators were also agreed by the Social Protection Committee (SPC) with a view to measure Member States’ progress towards the common objectives; – Every three years, Member States would translate common objectives into National Strategies for Social Protection and Social Inclusion , with a common section presenting their overall strategic approach and three thematic plans covering, respectively, social inclusion, pensions, and healthcare and longterm care; – The strategies would then be sent to the Commission with a view to monitor progress in a Joint Social Protection and Social Inclusion Report to be drafted every year for Council/Commission adoption prior to each Spring European Council; – The different elements of the social OMC were supported by Progress , a programme which financed the implementation of the objectives of the European Union in the fields of employment and social affairs for the period 2007–2013.

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