Normative Transformations in the European Union: On Hardening  and Softening Law

Normative Transformations in the European Union: On Hardening and Softening Law

Présentation en français

Until the late 1980s, European integration was generally said to be based on ‘integration through law’. However, since the 1990s, law seems to be increasingly challenged. New modes of governance tend to distance themselves from legal integration in a context of constraining dissensus and politicization, while the rule of law is challenged by populist parties and illiberal democracies. This has provoked a debate between those who question the centrality of law in EU integration and those who argue that the EU is still subject to processes of judicialisation, juridification and Eurolegalism. This debate has never been settled and has even become livelier in the context of the EU’s polycrisis: while in some policy areas the EU has responded to the crisis with more legal integration, in other areas the response has been soft or non-existent.


Against this background, T-Norms –a research project on the Transformation of Norms in the European Union- aims at understanding what triggers normative transformations, be it legalization or delegalization, at both EU and national level. Legalization and delegalization processes are linked with the idea of norms being placed on a continuum running from non-legal positions to legally binding and judicially controlled commitments (hard law) with, in between these two opposite types of norms, commitments that can be described as soft law. An evolution towards hard law is defined as legalization, while an opposite evolution towards soft law / non-legal norms is seen as delegalization.


In one of the T-Norms publications, we seek to explain when, how and why EU norms have been transformed in three policy fields: budget monitoring (stability and growth pact), migration and cybersecurity. While some of these policies have become softer (delegalization), others have hardened (legalization). Three potential explanations are considered: the impact of crises; the poor implementation of norms; the heterogeneity of the entrepreneurship, on the one hand of supranational institutions, on the other of member state governments.

Chercheur.e.s impliqué.e.s : 

Contact : 
Simon Persico
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