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(No) hidden agenda? Interest Groups’ use of EU Soft Law in the field of food safety

European Union
Interest Groups
Policy Implementation
Member States
Anne Ausfelder
Freie Universität Berlin
Anne Ausfelder
Freie Universität Berlin

Abstract

It is acknowledged that EU soft law, even though legally not binding, can produce practical and legal effects at national level and even feed back into EU policy making. Soft law can function as a reference point for further clarification or specification carried out by e. g. national regulators when interpreting pertinent national law, it can establish whole new governance ideas or provide additional processes related to EU polices. Especially for interest groups, soft law seems to offer new possibilities to either push for a policy change or to allow them to not change their ways of working. However, while interest group influence on formulation and implementation of EU hard law has been studied extensively, we do not know much about interest groups’ influence on processes around soft law and their motivation behind the usage of EU soft law at the domestic level. This paper aims at illustrating interest groups’ usage of EU soft law by analysing soft EU legislation in the field of food safety regulation in France and Germany. After several food crises in the late 1990s and early 2000s, regulation in this field became increasingly important in the EU. The special endeavour to monitor contaminants in food, such as acrylamide, became an essential objective for national food safety authorities as well as for the EUs food safety strategy. The paper exemplifies interest groups’ strategies and motivations behind the usage of several soft law instruments around the monitoring of acrylamide. This case is especially interesting as it reveals diverse soft and hard effects in the two Member States, but soft law eventually also led to feedback effects at the EU level. A better insight into these processes may help us to better understand the changing nature of EU policy making. The paper is part of an ANR-DFG funded multiannual, interdisciplinary project providing a systematic empirical analysis of soft law in the EU multilevel system in France and Germany in seven policy fields and over a time span of fifteen years (2004-2019).