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Why the implementation of European Union law is more than just a question of legal compliance

posted Jul 8, 2017, 10:09 PM by Eva Thomann   [ updated Jul 8, 2017, 10:23 PM ]

The European Union (EU) is an unprecedented instance of a regulatory state above the nation state. Its
underlying idea is to provide joint solutions to shared regulatory problems. For example, the EU issues emission reduction targets for new cars in order to address the problem of man-made environmental pollution. However, and as the above picture illustrates, it is not always an easy task to ensure that the actors responsible for a given problem – for example, car producers – comply with such rules. Member states have a crucial and double role here. On the one hand, they often have to transpose rules from EU Directives into national legislation. Beyond this, however, they also have to put these rules on paper into action, and enforce them to ensure that target groups actually comply. Germany, for instance, has not rigorously enforced EU emission reduction targets vis-à-vis the Volkswagen Company. To put it bluntly, EU law can be perfectly transposed and still fail due to poor implementation performance in practice.

It is important to study the conditions under which EU law is successfully implemented. Research about this topic tends to focus on the process of legal transposition. We know much less about the question of how policies on paper are put into action – not least because data about these phenomena are often hard to obtain. Clearly, however, EU policies change while being put into practice. As a result, policy outcomes vary widely between member states and may not correspond with the original policy objectives. This has become apparent again as the asylum or austerity crises challenge the EU’s problem-solving capacity. In our JEPP special issue “Moving beyond legal compliance: Innovative approaches to EU multilevel implementation”, we take a closer look at the implementation stage in “zooming in” on implementation performance and asking how domestic actors problem-solve when interpreting EU law.

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Read the full post on the EU Law Enforcement blog

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