A matter of democracy: EU soft law in the education area - A study on how Sweden relates and refers to the European Union in the policy field of higher education

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: The aim of this master thesis is to shed light on some of the democratic implications ofEuropeanization through soft law in the education area. The central question is how thenational level, in its higher education policy, relates and refers to the EU, and how this can beunderstood and problematized from a democratic point of view. The country in focus isSweden, and a critical text analysis is performed on official national documents on educationpolicy, covering the time period between 2001 and 2012.The results show that the EU, through soft law, plays a significant role in the education policydiscourse at the national level. The EU recommendations seem to have an impact on thenational policy process and are frequently used to legitimise and strengthen policy proposals.Even though this result indicates that Sweden is a policy-borrower (rather than a policylender)in the education field, and that the EU plays a relevant role in this development, this isnot sufficiently problematized in the Swedish policy documents. The result is a confirmationof the practical difficulties of separating hard law from soft law, resulting in a ’democraticloophole’ where the EU gets un-proportional influence in policy areas, which according to theEU Treaty, are of national competency. The results thus call for a further debate on how thisdemocratic deficiency should be handled.

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