Over a decade and a half ago Central East European countries changed from authoritarian command economies to more democratic market systems. In addition to internal changes they reoriented their external outlook away from the soviet block towards integration with the European Union. The paper examines the impact of the EU on labour market policy making and reform processes in Poland in its pre-accession and new membership stages. While during the pre-accession phase adoption of the community acquis, and thus also the employment related directives, was necessary and obligatory, full participation in the European Employment Strategy was not. Still, Poland has been reforming its policies towards taking part in the EES since the late 1990s. How does the governance process in the hard and soft law traditions compare given Poland’s socialist legacy of top down government juxtaposed with deteriorating unions, and an absence of powerful employer associations? How are the challenges of policy making and institution building met in the context of economic situation currently far-off from the goals specified by the Lisbon strategy? The paper engages in the discussion of the impact of Europeanization by analysing a post socialist transition state turned an EU applicant and then a new member
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