Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Susan Rose-Ackerman and Peter L. Lindseth
Chapter 17: Independent Administrative Authorities in France: Structural and Procedural Change at the Intersection of Americanization, Europeanization and Gallicization
Dominique Custos Over the past twenty years, the French administrative sphere has experienced dramatic structural changes, some inspired by American examples, others prodded by the EU or the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) (Sauvé 2008: 239). On the one hand, since the late 1980s and early 1990s, French public utilities have undergone a liberalization that first affected air transport and telecommunications, then the electricity and gas sectors, eventually reaching postal and railroad services. The restructuring of state-owned companies in the 1980s generally resulted only in the shrinking of the public sector and an influx of private law rules into the operation of some public corporations. The 1990s liberalization, by contrast, had more far-reaching consequences. The new regulatory framework, imposed by EU directives or rulings by its judicial arm, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), gave a central role to independent administrative authorities (IAAs) in French administration and regulation. In this regard, the emerging regulatory framework bears a striking resemblance to the revised common carrier model that emerged in the United States following the deregulation of public utilities in the late 1970s. These various changes have forced former publicly owned monopolies into a competitive environment. As a consequence, a fundamental transformation has taken hold, which arguably upsets the core of the French administrative foundations: the ideal of service public or public service. Moreover, starting in the 1990s, the ECtHR’s direct or indirect condemnations of key features of the French administrative procedure on the basis of the right to a fair...
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