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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.
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Chapter 9: Formal and informal governance in Single Market regulation

Burkard Eberlein


1 Burkard Eberlein INTRODUCTION This chapter discusses the role of informal governance in EU Single Market regulation. Drawing on the case study of electricity regulation, I will argue that informal governance can enhance the effectiveness of supranational regulation. The chapter identifies and examines transnational regulatory networks as prominent embodiments of informal governance in EU regulation. These networks bring together regulatory officials, with the input of private stakeholders, in expertise-driven forums. On an informal basis and without codified, legal powers, they develop ‘best-practice’ regulatory rules and procedures that set the agenda for formal endorsement by competent bodies. Informal governance emerges in response to the defects of formal decisionmaking procedures that are often rigid, cumbersome and prone to deadlock. This is because formal decision-making needs to meet high consensus requirements and overcome multiple veto points in a context of high diversity. In this perspective, informal governance has been portrayed as a vital ‘escape route’ from political impasse in the EU (Héritier 1999). Yet, informal governance is not a panacea. I will specify under which conditions and at which stages of the policy process informal governance can be expected to be particularly effective. And I will also argue that formal and informal governance are not mutually exclusive avenues, but actually depend on each other and can play complementary roles in supranational regulation. In a first step, the chapter places the role of informal governance in the larger context of EU decision-making structures in Single Market regulation. After briefly presenting the formal allocation...

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