The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World

The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World


Publication Date




For many observers, the European Union is mired in a deep crisis. Between sluggish growth; political turmoil following a decade of austerity politics; Brexit; and the rise of Asian influence, the EU is seen as a declining power on the world stage.

Columbia Law professor Anu Bradford argues the opposite in her important new book The Brussels Effect: the EU remains an influential superpower that shapes the world in its image. By promulgating regulations that shape the international business environment, elevating standards worldwide, and leading to a notable Europeanization of many important aspects of global commerce, the EU has managed to shape policy in areas such as data privacy, consumer health and safety, environmental protection, antitrust, and online hate speech. And in contrast to how superpowers wield their global influence, the Brussels Effect - a phrase first coined by Bradford in 2012- absolves the EU from playing a direct role in imposing standards, as market forces alone are often sufficient as multinational companies voluntarily extend the EU rule to govern their global operations.

The Brussels Effect shows how the EU has acquired such power, why multinational companies use EU standards as global standards, and why the EU's role as the world's regulator is likely to outlive its gradual economic decline, extending the EU's influence long into the future.


Administrative Law | Comparative and Foreign Law | Constitutional Law | European Law | International Law | Law | Law and Politics




Oxford University Press


New York, NY


"Anu Bradford, a professor at Columbia University, originally coined the term "Brussel effect" and has been studying it for several years. Her impressive book assembles evidence going back decades, tracing its development from the "Reach" chemicals regulation, developed in the early 2000s, to the digital age. ... What is incontrovertible is that the Brussels effect has dominated global economic regulation to an under-appreciated extent. This book will be the definitive reference guide for those wishing to understand."
Alan Beattie, Financial Times

"Anu Bradford's The Brussels Effect is essential reading for anyone interested in Europe's place in the world. Decried as a powerless entity, vainly committed to multilateralism, Bradford shows how the EU has, in fact, turned unilateral regulatory measures into a source of global economic clout. A timely and powerful antidote to prevailing euro-pessimism."
Adam Tooze, author of Crashed and Director of the European Institute, Columbia University

"This book is both timely and important. I have frequently witnessed the Brussels Effect in many areas, including data privacy, trade, the digital economy and consumer and food safety, where the EU increasingly sets global standards. Professor Bradford describes in a detailed and engaging style why the EU is a global regulatory superpower that shapes the world in its own image. This book is of great relevance, not just for an academic audience but also for businesses and policy makers around the world. This book clearly explains the nature of the EU's often under-appreciated 'quiet influence."
Anthony Gardner, former US Ambassador to the European Union

"Finally! A book that carefully and systematically documents the European Union's power in the world and challenges us to rethink how we define power in the process. The Brussels Effect is a tour de force; a study that will establish a new benchmark for scholars and serve as a major stumbling block for prophets of European decline."
Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO, New America

"In The Brussels Effect, Anu Bradford has developed her brilliant and insightful theory of the European Union's global power into a fascinating and thorough account of the ways in which EU rules are transformed into global standards through market mechanisms. This book, like her earlier work, will be widely read and highly influential in policy as well as scholarly debates."
Gráinne de Búrca, Florence Ellinwood Allen Professor of Law, New York University

"The Brussels Effect is an important book that challenges us to rethink the impact of the EU on the global economy. Bradford has made a creative and original contribution to the literature on business regulation. Her well-documented and clearly written study shows how and why the EU has become the world's most influential regulator, shaping both business practices and public policies well beyond its borders."
David Vogel, Solomon P. Lee Chair Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Business Ethics, University of California Berkley

"In The Brussels Effect, Anu Bradford offers a perceptive analysis of the influence the EU can and must have well beyond its borders. With global governance being challenged, the Brussels Effect is filling a desperately needed void. It gives us yet another reason why we cannot afford to have the European ambitions fail."
Paul Polman, Co-founder, IMAGINE and Chair, International Chamber of Commerce, Former CEO of Unilever

"This may well be the single most important book on Europe's influence to appear in a decade."
Andrew Moravcsik, Foreign Affairs


Also available as an eBook through the Columbia University Libraries.

Foreign Affairs Best of Books 2020, Western Europe.

Watch Anu Bradford talk about The Brussels Effect, HFS Faculty Book Series Event, May 19, 2021.

The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World

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