The EU's Private Law in the Regulated Sectors: Competitive Market Handmaiden or Institutional Platform?

AuthorYane Svetiev
Date01 September 2016
Published date01 September 2016
The EUs Private Law in the Regulated
Sectors: Competitive Market Handmaiden or
Institutional Platform?
Yane Svetiev*
Abstract: The article contests the claim thatEU private law is narrowly circumscribed by a
market rationality. Such a claim tracks broader criticism of EU functional legal integration,
although it tends to obsc ure the underlying tran sformative pressures on private law and
regulation and the role EU law plays in coping with such pressures. To offer a number of
counter-narratives, th e article draws on examples from the re gulated sectors, including
telecommunications and energy, to reveal their experimentalist features. These suggest that
EU private lawis constructed through a processof error-corrections,which allows for mutual
adjustmentof instruments and hybridisationof EU and local policy goals. The processresults
in more f‌inely grained assemblag es of autonomy and regulatio n to respond to concrete
problems or newly salient policy goals, so that markets are understood as socialinstitutions
that are always works-in-progress ra ther than convergence points. Thus, EU private law
provides a platform for transnational market-building through innovating institutions that
promote variousnormative and policy commitmentsdespite the interdependenciesthat could
undermine them.
I Introduction
The diff‌icultiesfaced in coping with the Eurozonecrisis, as well as disunity in theresponse
to signif‌icant refugee arrivals at its borders, have reinforced doubts about the problem-
solving capacities of the European Union. The growing scepticism regarding the present
state and policies of the EU detected in public debate and the decline in the EUs global
stature as an architecture for effective and legitimate transnational governance had been
foreshadowed by souring sc holarly assessments of the E Us longer-term effort at
constructing and regulat ing the internal market. E U law scholarship had once lau ded
the contribution of EU legal integration in providing a framework for deliberative disci-
pline over national policy-making not only in the Member States,
but also beyond
* Bocconi University and Europea n University Institute. The author acknowledges the support of the ERC
project on European Regulatory Priv ate Law and the helpful comments from Hans-W . Micklitz, Marta
Cantero-Gamito, Guendalina Ca tti-de Gasperi, Lucila de Almeid a, Fernando Gómez, Liam McHugh,
Thomas Wilhelmsson and the ELJ, as we ll as the research assistance of Giacomo Tagiuri, with the usual
disclaimer.The article was written as partof the ERC funded project on EuropeanRegulatory Private Law.
E.g. C. Joerges and J. Neyer, From IntergovernmentalBargaining to DeliberativePolitical Processes,(1997)3
European Law Journal,273299;cf. C. Joerges,and F. Rödl, InformalPolitics,Formalised Law andthe Social
Def‌icitof EuropeanIntegration: Ref‌lections afterthe Judgments of the ECJ in Viking and Laval, (2009) 15
European Law Journal,119 (reinterpreting internalmarket constructionas a Polanyian disembeddingmove).
European LawJournal, Vol. 22, No. 5, September 2016,pp. 659680.
© 2017 John Wiley& Sons Ltd. 9600 Garsington Road,Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street,Malden, MA 02148, USA
through the EUs enlargement, neighbourhood and external policies.
concerns about the enla rgement of EU competenci es over time, the creation and
regulation of the internal market had long been viewed as a success, enhancing the EUs
output legitimacy within and establishing the EU as a credible market regulator without.
The sceptical turn in EU law scholarship involves re-evaluating the very premises and
legal foundationsof the internal market project. Suchscepticism appears so profound that
it leads to doubtsabout the possibility of reformthat would set the internal marketproject
on a more sustainable path,
without revolutionary changes in the basis, documents and
objectives of EU integra tion by either drastical ly scaling up the ambition of t he
European project
or consciously going in reverse.
When it comes to the internal market projectthe focus of this articlethe re-evalua-
tion of EU efforts at market-co nstruction and regulation in volves a set of interrelated
claims. The principal claim is that the EU has been a driver of economisation throu gh
the constructionof markets around competitiveprinciples, a process that ineluctablyleads
to the elimination of national market regulati on and social protection, which are both
product and source of democratic solidarity and cohesion. As such, apart from being an
economising force,the EUs market-building project is also seen as a homogenisingforce
because it favours negat ive integration, reduc ing available justif‌ications for national
democratic policy-making and, in turn, evenundermining national identities and cultures
as ref‌lecting particular ways of life.
Such effectsare said to be the result of at least threefeatures now encoded in EU market
construction, which are extremel y diff‌icult to reverse through gradualist ti nkering and
without radical change in both the mechanisms of EU integration and the sources of its
First, EU legal integration has focusedon the creation of markets built upon
competitive principles to favour cross-border trade and establishment, supported by free
movement and competition law that eliminate local reg ulatory barriers. Secondly, EU
laws competitive strictures are no longer seen to accommodate national policy-making
rooted in social or uniqu ely local policy concer ns. Negative integratio n is so deeply
entrenched in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice (CJEU) that it makes
EU law unable to accommodate national regulatory autonomy, or to provide a frame-
work for protection, let alone enhancement, of socio-economic rights at EU level. This
outcome does not necessarily ref‌lect a market bias on the part of the CJEU, but rather
the constraints of judicial decision-making on the basis of precedent and the limits of
judicial remedies in p rotecting positive vers us negative rights.
Finally, the CJEUs
impetus towards negati ve integration is unlikel y to be legislatively reverse d. This is
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A. Bradford,The Brussels Effect, (2012)107 Northwestern UniversityLaw Review,168.
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A. Somek, Europe:Political, Not Cosmopolitan, (2014) 20 European Law Journal,142163.
G. Majone, Rethinking theUnion of Europe Post Crisis: Has European IntegrationGone Too Far? (Cambridge
UniversityPress, 2014).
G. Davies, Internal Market Adjudicationand the Quality of Life in Europe,(2014)21Columbia Journal of
European Law,289328.
Davies, above, n. 4.
F. Scharpf, The Asymmetry of European Integration, or Why the EU Cannot be a Social Market Econ-
omy?,(2010)8Socio-Economic Review,211250.
EU Private Law in the Regulated SectorsSeptember 2016
© 2017 John Wiley& Sons Ltd.660

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