What proportion of national laws originate in Brussels? 80%? 50%? 20%?
Published on the London School of Economics’ European Politics and Policy blog is a myth-busting short piece of research by Annette Elisabeth Toller which discusses:
“How many national laws originate in Brussels? Does the EU significantly shape the policy agenda of its Member States?”
Whilst acknowledging the methodological difficulties of answering these questions, the research has two main findings:
80%? Really? No.
First, the commonly cited claim that 80% of law adopted in the EU Member States originates in Brussels arises simply because of a prophecy by Jacques Delors, then President of the Commission, in 1988. Which was simply that, a prophecy:
“…a forecast of the future that was not based on scientific data or methods, it gained momentum when only few years later the Maastricht Treaty was challenged in Germany before the German Constitutional Court. Then the prophecy was turned into a diagnosis of the actual situation: ““The claimant, referring to an assessment made by the President of the European Commission, Delors [. . .], brings forward that already now almost 80 per cent of all legislation in the field of economic law [. . .] is determined by Community law”.”
And so a tabloid myth was made.
The actual shares of “Europeanized legislation”
The most interesting part of the research is its finding that the share of national legislation that comes from Brussels is much lower than commonly thought:
“When we looked at scholarly research in this field, we found that it was not only driven by the wish “to get the figures straight”, i.e. to rationalize the debates by producing reliable figures with a robust method. Rather, these numbers were seen as an indicator either of a loss in the decision making ability of national Parliaments or – in more general terms – of a transformation of the nation state.
We looked first at studies on Germany, the United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands and Denmark. Others on France, Austria and Finland followed. The striking finding is that most of these studies showed rather low shares of Europeanized national legislation: 15.5 per cent for the UK, 14 per cent for Denmark, 10.6 per cent for Austria, between 3 and 27 per cent for France, between 1 and 24 per cent for Finland, yet 39.1 per cent for Germany.”
There are a number of caveats and assumptions behind those figures, as might be expected – but it seems clear that the famous 80% is in, most policy fields, at least an exaggeration.
See also: The breaking wave of EU regulation