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Hurka, Steffen and Steinebach, Yves (2021): Legal Instrument Choice in the European Union. In: Jcms-Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol. 59, No. 2: pp. 278-296 [PDF, 840kB]


Regulations and directives are the central legal instruments used by the EU. In some instances, the Commission is not legally required to choose a specific legal instrument, but can make this decision autonomously. However, we know surprisingly little about the factors that influence this decision. Based on an original dataset of all directives and regulations proposed by the European Commission in ordinary legislative procedures between 2009 and 2018, we find that the choice of a legal instrument is strongly determined by prior policy decisions and varies systematically across policy areas depending on the extent to which they have traditionally been addressed under the co-decision procedure. In addition, we find that the Commission's use of regulations increases under conditions of increased euroscepticism, indicating that instead of granting dissenting member states more room to manoeuvre, the Commission prefers to keep them on a short leash.

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