Self-regulation in the European context is found on two different levels. On the one hand, self-regulation at EC level is promoted as an alternative to European legislation, and on the other hand the possibility of self-regulation at national level is created in certain cases in order to implement EC directives.
Various forms of self-regulation, often under specific conditions, have been introduced at Community level. For example, a procedure has been created in the Treaty for legislation by employers' associations and trades unions. In the meantime, a few directives have been made on the basis of this procedure (parental leave, part-time working). In the environmental field, some experimenting is going on with drawing up European covenants (relating among other things to CO2 emissions by the car industry). Regarding legitimacy, further insight is needed into the procedures on the basis of which such social agreements and covenants are made, including reference to how representative the parties involved are, and how involved the EC institutions are in this. As regards its effectiveness, it is important to know how these agreements are to be implemented, and how to ensure compliance with them is monitored. The question then arises of their status for the Community and national judiciary.
Two other forms of self-regulation are probably located more on the interface of self-regulation and delegation. These concern firstly the laying down of Community standards through standardization and certification, in order to implement essential requirements laid down in EC directives. The legal character and representativeness of the institutions laying down the standards and the status of the standards they accept raise questions similar to those described above. Developments of the last few years also include the setting up of various Community authorities such as the European Medicine Agency, and the European Environmental Agency. It is expected that these authorities, which fit into a liberalized market, will also form a new model of regulation in the future. The question is how to guarantee their functioning in accordance with Community law, and how they are to be monitored.
The above developments in the field of self-regulation give rise to a number of more fundamental questions. These include the extent to which these developments are bringing about a change in Community law itself, and what their implications are for the traditional principles controlling the relationship between Community law and national law, including the liability of member states for all violations of Community law. Do these developments also imply a shift in legal protection of individuals, and the effectiveness of legal control? And what limitations does Community law itself impose on these forms of self-regulation, for example via the competition rules or the principle of the uniform application of Community law?