Soft Law Implementation in the EU Multilevel System: Legitimacy and Governance Efficiency Revisited

  • Miriam HartlappEmail author
Part of the Comparative Territorial Politics book series (COMPTPOL)


Soft law instruments such as recommendations, guidelines or communications do not entail jurisdictional control, but produce important legal and practical effects. The literature on soft law frequently praises these instruments for enhancing governance efficiency through flexible problem solving. On the other hand critiques stress a lack of legitimacy as soft law is typically adopted outside the legislative arena. Yet, relatively little is known about concrete effects it takes at the national level. On the basis of case study evidence from Germany, this chapter shows that despite being non-binding, EU soft law is frequently implemented. Comparing implementation of nine soft law instruments in financial market regulation, social and environmental policy the chapter highlights that actors implement soft EU instruments either in the form of soft or hard law. Efficiency gains are frequently a main driver of implementation, while legitimacy and accountability become a concern where responsibilities are blurred during implementation.


Accountability European union Implementation Legitimacy Soft law 



I wish to thank Jörg Broschek, Andreas Hofmann and Michèle Knodt for exchange and comments, Tobias Hübler for excellent research assistance and the interviewees for freely sharing their time and expertise with me.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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