Legitimacy Research in Progress IX: Claartje van Dam

Claartje van Dam, member of the Profile Area of Political Legitimacy, is in the final period of her PhD research, in which she explores the role of guidance documents of the European Commission in the implementation of EU legislation. Claartje hopes to defend her thesis in 2017.


The European Union is based on the rule of law. The EU institutions adopt legislative acts that need to be implemented at the level of the Member States. In order to provide assistance to the Member States in the implementation of EU legislation, the European Commission issues guidance documents. These are documents that are not legally binding, and that clarify the provisions of the legal acts. At a time where the legislation is increasingly complex and subject to political comprises, guidance is a welcome implementation tool for both the European Commission and the Member States. Yet, in practice the issuing and use of guidance documents may lead to unintended consequences that pose problems in light of legal principles. For instance, does the use of Commission guidance confine the discretionary powers of the Member States? Does the use of guidance mystify the division of competences between the Commission and the Member States, raising problems in light of accountability? And, is there a risk that the use of guidance documents gives rise to uncertainty concerning the interpretation of EU legislation?

Claartje’s research explores the relationship between the use of Commission guidance and the legal principles governing the implementation of EU legislation. To this end, she explores the use of guidance in three policy areas: agricultural subsidies, free movement of persons and the habitats directive. Her research focuses mainly on The Netherlands, though she also conducts some contextual research in other Member States. Claartje’s research demonstrates that the purpose and use of guidance documents differentiates among different policy areas and actors and that as a result this has different legal implications. From this conclusion lessons can be drawn as to under what conditions the use of guidance can contribute to the effective and legitimate implementation of EU legislation.  

Dissertation title (provisional): “Commission guidance and the implementation of EU legislation”
PhD candidate: Claartje van Dam
Institute :
Department of Constitutional and Administrative law, Institute of Public Law, Leiden Law School
Start: September 2013
Finish: expected 2017.
Supervisors: prof. dr. Willemien den Ouden & prof. dr. Wim Voermans

Last Modified: 09-05-2016