Implementation and enforcement of EU policies

Authored by: Nikolaos Zahariadis , Laurie Buonanno

The Routledge Handbook of European Public Policy

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138927339
eBook ISBN: 9781315682723
Adobe ISBN:


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Studying compliance with EU policies is an intricate issue. Even the very concept of ‘compliance’ is anything but trivial and there is a confusing multiplicity of definitions (see Hartlapp & Falkner, 2009, for a more in-depth treatment of this section’s subject). A classic international relations definition is that compliance exists ‘when the actual behavior of a given subject conforms to prescribed behavior’ (Raustiala & Slaughter, 2001; Young, 1979, p. 104). With a view to EU implementation studies, compliance of both the member states and of their citizens hence comes into play. Political scientists typically do not study the behaviour of individuals in the EU’s member states but focus on the public policies associated with compliance, i.e., on the ‘implementation’ of EU policies with the outcome of (more or less) compliance by the state in question. This is, admittedly, one step apart from the compliance of the citizens and hence leaves a big potential for non-compliance that is left outside of this picture. Nonetheless, even researching the compliance of states is still a complex issue since various layers of the involved political systems come into play in several stages. From the perspective of a member state, to dutifully implement an EU-related rule will typically include duties of a) rule-setting, b) control of these laws as to their application in practice, and c) enforcement where they are not adequately respected. Good compliance by the state in question will demand both timeliness and correctness in taking all indispensable actions. This multitude of dimensions, the various levels involved, and the many policies of the EU, all pose great challenges in researching the compliance of EU member states.

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