Informal Governance in the European Union

Informal Governance in the European Union

Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Simona Piattoni

This book addresses an issue of paramount importance concerning the politics of the European Union: aspects of governance and policy making in the EU that are labelled ‘informal’. Much of the literature on the EU focuses on the formal facets of EU politics, but uniquely, the subject matter within this book deals with informal aspects such as: the role of personal relationships, the presence of non-hierarchical policy-networks and non-institutional channels of interest representation, and the relevance of the unwritten rules and routines which govern these aspects of EU politics.

Chapter 1: Informal governance in the European Union: an introduction

Thomas Christiansen, Andreas Føllesdal and Simona Piattoni

Subjects: law - academic, european law, politics and public policy, european politics and policy, regulation and governance


Thomas Christiansen, Andreas Føllesdal and Simona Piattoni INTRODUCTION The study of European integration tends to focus on formal aspects of the integration process: formal decision-making procedures, the role and functioning of institutions, the provisions contained in the treaties, the operation of regulatory regimes in the various policy areas. This is hardly surprising: what is distinctive about the integration process in Europe – what distinguishes integration in Europe from international cooperation in other parts of the world – is the creation and growth of a unique institutional and legal framework structuring the relations between the participating states.1 An early and still important contribution to the understanding of the integration process has been the ‘integration through law’ school which regarded the development of a supranational legal order as the key factor in the explanation of the integration process (Cappelletti et al. 1986). If the formalization of interstate relations is regarded as the essence of the integration process, it is hardly surprising that scholars should concentrate on the formal procedures and the institutionalized arenas for decision-making. However, as has become increasingly evident in the course of recent developments in the European Union, there is an important undercurrent to the formal integration process. This concerns the operation of informal networks which link policy-makers to client groups as well as actors across EU, national and sub-national institutions, and influence (or at least seek to influence) decision-making in the EU. This practice of informal governance is, of course, not a recent phenomenon, but a long-standing dimension of...