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Legitimising Supranational Risk Regulation: The EU Pharmaceutical and Food Safety Regimes

GPS, Vol. 4 No. 1, (2008)

From the point of democratic legitimacy, supranational risk
regulation is problematic in two respects: Firstly, as part of EU
competencies, it may suffer from the EU’s ‘democratic deficit’ like
all other kinds of supranational policy-making. And secondly,
supranational risk regulation often takes place in rather
technocratic, intransparent and closed bodies like committees or
agencies which hide it from public scrutiny. This article examines
whether and how supranational risk regulation can nevertheless be
legitimised. Therefore, it examines different mechanisms which
may legitimise policy-making. On the one hand, input legitimacy
derives from procedures, which allow stakeholders to articulate
their interests in supranational risk regulation. And on the other
hand, output legitimacy results from the quality of the final policy
outcomes of supranational regulatory regimes. A crucial question
is the relationship between output- and input legitimacy: Does
strong input from stakeholders automatically result in adequate
regulatory policies, or does it disturb the efficiency and thus output
legitimacy of regulatory regimes? To answer this question, the two
cases of pharmaceutical and foodstuff regulation in the EU are
compared. The result of this empirical analysis is that
pharmaceutical authorisation derives its legitimacy mainly from
output factors, whereas foodstuff regulation aims to increase its
legitimacy by purposeful inclusion of stakeholders. Given the crisis
of consumer confidence in EU food safety legislation, the article
concludes that supranational regulatory regimes are more
dependent on output than on input legitimacy.

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