European Union Soft Law: New Developments Concerning the Divide between Legally Binding Force and Legal Effects


The Modern Law Review

September 2012, vol. 75, n°5, pp.879-893

Keywords: EU law, Soft law, Legal effects, Legally binding force, National regulatory authorities, General principles of law

The judgment in Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa sheds light on the legal effects of soft law instruments that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will recognise, while distinguishing between their legally binding force and their legal or practical effects. European soft law is now often relied on in national courts, and can have an important impact on the rights and obligations of individuals. However, some of the goals of the Commission are only partly attainable due to the specific legal status of soft law instruments, and the current languages policy of the European Union. Given that soft law was not found to expressly impose obligations on individuals, the Court held that there was no requirement to publish it in all the official languages of the European Union. This has a negative impact on transparency and legal certainty, diminishing the role of soft law instruments in promoting such goals