The European Employment Strategy (EES) is implemented through a process, including ‘guidelines’, encapsulated in Article 148(2) and Article 148(3) EC:
2. On the basis of the conclusions of the European Council, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the Employment Committee referred to in Article 150, shall each year draw up guidelines which the Member States shall take into account in their employment policies. These guidelines shall be consistent with the broad guidelines adopted pursuant to Article 121(2).
3. Each Member State shall provide the Council and the Commission with an annual report on the principal measures taken to implement its employment policy in the light of the guidelines for employment as referred to in paragraph 2.
The Council and Commission prepare a joint report to the European Council of that year, which, on the basis of proposals by the Commission, may make (non-binding) recommendations to Member States concerning their employment policies.
Guidelines are a soft law instrument. This can be viewed from different perspectives. On the one hand, it allows for adaptation and flexibility to different needs, avoiding to impose stringent detailed requirements from above. It would provide an element of steering in a field where Member States would in any case not accept more stringent European intervention. On the other hand, such non-binding EU guidelines may not lead Member States to change their national employment policies and might be a move away from the ‘hard law’ legislative method. The dominant method of regulation shifts from the ‘Community method’, which engages the role of the Commission and the European Parliament and increases ‘intergovernmentalism’ and the role of the Council.
While the impact of the guidelines on national employment policies is difficult to assess, it is becoming clear that they have had a guiding influence on labour legislation at European level.