Regulating the invisible: a critical analysis of the EU’s approach to nanotechnologies

T. Ehnert

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal


This research investigates the role of ‘law’ in confronting the rise of nanotechnologies which as this thesis argues, serves as a proxy for broader societal transformations that can be captured under the headings of globalisation, the functional differentiation of society into distinct rationalities and the omnipresence of man-made risks. Particularly, the thesis analyses by whom and how decisions are taken at the EU level based on the EU’s approach to the regulation of nanotechnologies in the food and chemicals sectors. The research discloses a retreat of the European Union to its executive powers, including ‘soft law’ measures such as guidance documents by EU agencies or comitology measures by the Commission. Inherently political decisions, which revolve around the question of ‘how safe is safe enough?’, are shifted to a de-politicised administrative setting – to ‘experts’ in EU agencies or the Commission. Thereby, the EU legislature and fundamental democratic control mechanisms are bypassed.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Vos, Ellen, Supervisor
Award date26 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • nanotechnology
  • EU

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