European integration and national law: A theory of administrative behaviour in complex institutional settings (COMPLEX)

COMPLEX studies the effects of international treaties on Norwegian law with a focus on European Union law.

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About the project

National administrative bodies interpret and practice the EU’s secondary laws. These agencies are double hatted: they serve their respective national ministries, and are at the same time part of the multilevel EU administration. COMPLEX investigates how this practice affects national law. In order to reach correct decisions, independent agencies must possess political literacy to heed the administrative values of accuracy, effective performance and fairness.

The project introduces three modes of incorporation: instrumental, advocatory, and conciliatory. They build on different epistemic logics and different administrative rationalities. The models give rise to distinct conjectures to how agencies practice EU law and hence, why they sometimes err. Depending on the mode of incorporation, the effects are expected to be diminutive, selective, or comprehensive, respectively.

In order to assess how agency representatives perceive the relative weight of potentially conflicting concerns, a vignette experiment (factorial study) will investigate how careful variations in regulatory scenarios are responded to. The vignette experiment will be complemented by an in-depth study of incorporation modes in three regulatory areas: social security, market integrity, and environmental protection.

COMPLEX will conduct a form of process tracing that reveals which of the three modes of incorporation are dominant and what the legal effects are. Modes of incorporation also affects the effects of other international treaties. COMPLEX in the final analyses relates its findings to other treaties and the problem of regulatory juridification, which occur when application of law depend on regulation practices.


The primary objective of COMPLEX is to establish the effects of EU law on the practicing of national law. COMPLEX further aims to establish whether there is context sensitive variation in interpreting and practicing EU law and to develop a theory of administrative behaviour in complex settings.


COMPLEX is funded by the Research Council of Norway’s research initiative ‘Europe in Transition’ (EUROPA) under the UTENRIKS Research Programme on International relations, foreign and security policy and Norwegian interests.

Project period: 1 August 2021 – 31 January 2025

Published Apr. 28, 2021 12:26 PM - Last modified May 4, 2021 9:57 AM