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
The aim of this master thesis is to shed light on some of the democratic implications of Europeanization through soft law in the education area. The central question is how the national level, in its higher education policy, relates and refers to the EU, and how this can be understood and problematized from a democratic point of view. The country in focus is Sweden, and a critical text analysis is performed on official national documents on education policy, covering the time period between 2001 and 2012. The results show that the EU, through soft law, plays a significant role in the education policy discourse at the national level. The EU recommendations seem to have an impact on the national 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 is not sufficiently problematized in the Swedish policy documents. The result is a confirmation of the practical difficulties of separating hard law from soft law, resulting in a ’democratic loophole’ where the EU gets un-proportional influence in policy areas, which according to the EU Treaty, are of national competency. The results thus call for a further debate on how this democratic deficiency should be handled.