The actual effects of the European Union (EU) on member states’ pension policy are more extensive and complex than the contractual basis suggests. In addition to the Open Method of Coordination, a genuine instrument of social policy, ‘cross-effects’ of the freedom of the internal market mediated by the ECJ, as well as fiscal policy ‘interventions’ in member states experiencing financial difficulties have risen in importance. The sovereign debt crisis has functioned as a ‘game changer’ that re-adjusted the balance between European influence and national autonomy, but so far only for the countries hit most by the crisis. As European influence in this supposed ‘new phase’ differs markedly depending on the respective budgetary situation as well as the ‘well-preparedness’ of national pension systems due to previous reforms and as informal rather than formal ways of exerting pressure were chosen, the consequences for other member states and the European pension policy ‘architecture’ as a whole are yet unclear.
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