Adjusting to International Standards: Has Sweden Learned from the European Charter of Local Self-Government?

  • Anders Lidstrom Umea University, Department of Political Science
  • Tom Madell Court of Appeal for Northern Norrland
Keywords: European Charter of Local Self-Government, decentralisation, self-government, local reform, Sweden


Following Swedish ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1989, a number of further reforms of Sweden’s system of local government have taken place. Based on premises derived from institutional theory, this article examines the extent to which these reforms can be seen as further adjustments to the Charter. Analyses of monitoring reports and policy documents indicate that the reforms are largely inspired by the Charter but that some key features of the Swedish legal system, such as the lack of a significant judicial remedy, remain unaffected despite the demands of the Charter.


Baldersheim, H. & Ståhlberg, K. (eds.) (1984) Towards the Self-Regulating Municipality (Aldershot: Dartmouth).

Beckert, J. (2010) Institutional Isomorphism Revisited: Convergence and Divergence in Institutional Change, Sociological Theory, 28(2), pp. 150-166.

Boggero, G. (2018) Constitutional Principles of Local Self-Government in Europe, Series: Studies in territorial and cultural diversity governance; vol. 9 (Brill: Leiden/Boston).

Cairney, P. (2012) Understanding Public Policy. Theories and Issues (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).

Commission of Inquiry on local self-government (1996) Den kommunala självstyrelsen och grundlagen. SOU 1996:129.

Commission of Inquiry on the Swedish Constitution (2007) Den kommunala självstyrelsens grundlagsskydd. SOU 2007:93.

Commission of Inquiry on the Swedish Constitution (2008) En reformerad grundlag. SOU 2008:125.

Council of Europe (2005) Explanatory memorandum and Recommendation 163 (2005) on local and regional democracy in Sweden. Document CG(12):7 (Strasbourg: council of Europe).

Council of Europe (2014) Explanatory Memorandum and Recommendation 357 (2014) on local and regional democracy in Sweden. Document CG(26)12FINAL (Strasbourg: council of Europe).

Dexia (2008) Sub-national Governments in the European Union: Organisation, Responsibilities and Finance (Paris: Dexia).

Di Maggio, P. J. & Powell, W. W. (1991) The iron cage revisited. Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields, In: Powell, W. W. & Di Maggio, P. J. (eds.) The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press).

Dolowitz, P. D. & Marsh, D. (2000) Learning from abroad: the role of policy transfer in contemporary policy-making, International Journal of Policy and Administration, 13(1), pp. 5-24.

Eurobarometer (2012) No 77, Spring 2012 (Brussels: Eurobarometer).

Evans, M. (2009) Policy transfer in critical perspective, Policy Studies, 30(3), pp. 243-268.

Gustafsson, A. (1977) Kommunal självstyrelse (Lund: Liber Läromedel).

Gustafsson, A. (1996) Kommunal självstyrelse. 7th edition. (Stockholm: SNS förlag).

Hasenclever, A., Mayer, P. & Rittberger, V. (1997) Theories of international regimes (Cambridge: Cambridge university press).

Himsworth, C.M.G. (2015) The European Charter of Local Self-Government. A treaty for local democracy (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press).

Krasner, S. D. (ed.) (1983) International regimes (Cornell University Press).

Ladner, A., Keuffer, N. & Baldersheim, H. (2016) Measuring Local Autonomy in 39 Countries (1990–2014), Regional & Federal Studies, 26(3), pp. 321-357.

Meyer, J. & Rowan, B. (1991) Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony. In: Powell, W. & DiMaggio. P. (eds.) The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press).

Nergelius, J (2011) Constitutional Law in Sweden (Alphen aan den Rijn: Klüwer International Law).

Peters, B. G. (1997) Policy transfers between governments: the case of administrative reforms, West European Politics, 20(4), pp. 71-88.

Peters, B. G. (2012) Institutional Theory in Political Science. The New Institutionalism. 3rd edition (New York and London: Continuum).

Pierson, P. & Skocpol, T. (2002) Historical institutionalism in contemporary political science. In: Katznelson, I. and Milner, H. V. (eds.) Political Science: State of the Discipline (New York: Norton).

Rose, R. (1993) Lesson-Drawing in Public Policy (New York: Chatham House).

Rose, R. (2005) Learning from Comparative Public Policy: A Practical Guide (London: Routledge).

Stone, D. (2000) Non-Governmental Policy Transfer: The Strategies of Independent Policy Institutes, Governance, 13(1), pp. 45-62.

Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (2003) Europakonventionen om kommunal självstyrelse. 15 år i svensk tillämpning (Stockholm: Svenska kommunförbundet och Landstingsförbundet).

Swedish Government (1998) Regeringens proposition om godkännande av den europeiska konventionen om kommunal självstyrelse. Proposition 1988/89:119.

Thelen, K. (1999) Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Politics, Annual Review of Political Science, 2, pp. 369-404.

Article (Open Access)