Democratic Legitimacy and Soft Law in the EU Legal Order: A Theoretical Perspective

Danai Petropoulou Ionescu*, Mariolina Eliantonio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The increased recourse to soft law by the European Union (EU) as a flexible solution to complex social and policy issues has raised several questions about the democratic legitimacy of decision-making at the EU level. With the aim to provide a normative direction for future empirical assessment of EU soft law, this article explores the democratic credentials that EU soft law measures should fulfil to ensure their legitimacy. Drawing from the intersections of liberal, republican and deliberative conceptions of democracy, this article proposes four democratic legitimacy standards for the evaluation of soft law measures in practice: parliamentary involvement, transparency, participatory quality and reviewability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-65
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Contemporary European Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • EU soft law
  • Democratic legitimacy
  • Liberal democracy
  • Republican democracy
  • Deliberative democracy
  • Governance

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