Brussels-Effect (Buzzwords of European Affairs 3/8)

The newly elected European Parliament faces a challenging composition of factions and parties. Forming progressive majorities will be more difficult than before. Despite this, and for this very reason, now is the right moment to emphasize the unique strength of the European project. It's also crucial to address the pressing issues it must tackle to continue fulfilling its promise of peace and prosperity. With our small project ”Buzzwords in European Affairs” we would like to bring you closer topics which are currently making the rounds in Europe. What are the actual meanings of these often dropped terms? What are the issues behind, and why are they so important for Europe? And what are social democratic actors in Europe saying about them?

The "Brussels Effect" refers to the phenomenon where European Union regulations and standards influence global markets and policies beyond the EU's borders. Initially, the term was coined by the American law professor Anu Bradford in 2012 in an article (Bradford 2012). In 2020, she published a book on the term: “The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World”.

According to her definition, through the size and importance of the European market, multinational companies will adapt their products and services all over the world according to the European regulation.  The “Brussels Effect” therefore provides a very reasonable argument against those who regularly bring forward the argument of a loss of competitiveness against meaningful regulation to protect consumers, citizens’ rights or the environment. Several examples can be brought forward. The most prominent example for an international impact and role-model is the GDPR, but also other regulations for digital markets can be viewed as having an impact over the European border. However, there are discussions about the nature of the “Brussels-Effect” and how far-reaching and impactful it actually is. Looking at the recently decided AI-Act, it will be interesting to see how the tech-industry worldwide will adapt their models according to the European regulation and whether it will strengthen or weaken the European market for Artificial Intelligence.

Social Democrats traditionally advocate for strong, effective and efficient European legislation to protect and improve consumer and citizens’ rights, and to set high environmental and social standards in Europe. Fighting for strong and progressive legislation means to argue against forces who bring forward that high European standards result in a loss of competitiveness for European companies due to costs created by regulation. Though, the concept of the “Brussels Effect demonstrates that European legislation can be bold to ensure that economic competitiveness is able to align with the protection of consumers, the environment, and social standards. Contrary to claims frequently made by the political right and neoliberal forces, these objectives are not mutually exclusive, but can go hand in hand.

You should read:


Anu Bradford, The Brussels Effect , Columbia Law School, 2012.

Ovidiu Nahoi, „Efectul Bruxelles”. Cât de eficient va fi pentru controlarea inteligenței artificiale? , Presshub, 18/06/2023.

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