National Action Plans
National Action Plans (NAPs) are a key element of the European Employment Strategy. In fulfilment of its obligation under Article 148 (3) TFEU,
‘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 first set of employment guidelines approved by the Luxembourg ‘Jobs Summit’ in November 1997 led the Member States to produce their NAPs by April 1998. These were discussed at the European Council at Cardiff in June 1998 and were the subject of the 1998 Joint employment report by the Council and Commission.
The wide variety of policies and practices revealed in these hastily prepared first NAPs raised doubts as to the success of the guidelines in achieving the objective of coordination of national employment policy. To promote the objective of coordination, the Joint employment report for 1998 prepared by the Commission and Council drew up a series of performance indicators, and used the outcomes of the best performing Member States to establish benchmarks as a reference standard. The Joint employment report for 1999 proposed recommendations to individual Member States, as provided in Article 148(4) TFEU, a procedure repeated in subsequent years.
The Commission’s evaluation of the first five years of operation of the European Employment Strategy in July 2002 (Taking stock of five years of the European Employment Strategy, COM (2002) 416) concluded that national employment policies seemed to have become more convergent under the EES on a number of subjects. However, it was difficult to prove that this was a direct result of the guidelines, as opposed to autonomous policy choices, despite the annual social policy ‘scoreboard’ produced by the Commission.
Although Article 146 ( 2) TFEU states that, in the coordination of their national employment policies, the Member States shall take into consideration national practices related to the responsibilities of management and labour, the employment title has not provided explicitly that the social partners should be involved in the drafting of the National Action Plans (Article 1483) TFEU. In fact, since the issuing of the first Employment Guidelines, the involvement of the social partners in the implementation of the European Employment Strategy, including the drafting of National Action Plans, has been encouraged strongly. However, it has been clear from the start that the involvement of the social partners in the formulation and implementation of National Action Plans has been variable among the different Member States.