In the European Union businesses, consumers and workers all enjoy the benefits of the Single Market. The Single Market rules ensure that there are no internal frontiers for people to work, live, study and do business within the EU. However businesses and citizens also often run into trouble because of the incorrect application of EU Single Market rules by public authorities of the EU Member States. For that purpose, the Commission launched an informal network named SOLVIT in 2002. Despite being almost old enough to buy a drink in a pub, not everyone is aware of SOLVIT’s existence, nor of what it does. A lack of (effective) promotion is most likely the cause of this problem. Therefore, this post is meant to offer some clearance on how SOLVIT functions in practice, while also dwelling upon some success stories.
Much is being said, lately, regarding the effectiveness of EU policies, often arguing that their implementation is too poor or uneven throughout the Union. Enforcing EU laws is crucial for their successful implementation; however, how should enforcement be organised? At which level, by what type of institutions and what implications does the choice for a particular institutional strategy have in terms of legitimacy, organization of controls and operation of enforcement? The European Commission itself is committed to making EU laws more effective and improving overall compliance with them. What is most relevant is the ongoing changes in the governance of EU law enforcement, according to which direct enforcement powers, long been regarded an exclusive competence of the EU Member States, are increasingly being uplifted at the supranational level, both by providing EU actors with direct powers and through unprecedented shared powers with the lower administrative levels.
Michiel Luchtman & Miroslava Scholten
With this blog post, the editors of the blog would like to announce the creation of the Jean Monnet Network on EU law Enforcement (EULEN). We would like to sketch briefly the relevance of this topic, thematic scope, structure and plans for activities of the network.
This blog post is a follow up to the preliminary outcomes of the international conference “European Union Law Enforcement: The Evolution of Sanctioning Powers”, organised by the Law Department of the University of Turin on 28 and 29 March 2019. The post is also intended to provide an overview of the main contents of the forthcoming publication of the proceedings of the conference (Eds Stefano Montaldo, Francesco Costamagna and Alberto Miglio, European Union Law Enforcement: The Evolution of Sanctioning Powers, Routledge – book series Routledge Research in EU Law – early 2020). Building on the conference, the book presents the state of the art of EU sanctioning powers and discusses paths converging towards its centralisation – at various degrees of intensity depending on the area of EU competence involved – in the hands of European institutions and bodies.
In my first blog post for this blog page, I signaled a rapid proliferation of EU enforcement authorities (EEAs). These EEAs are an example of a growing administration of shared tasks – regulatory and enforcement – in the EU. The establishment of these complex, multi-level governance structures and decision-making procedures is necessary to address “wicked problems” (think, for instance, about the need to protect environment), which require cooperation of and involvement of various stakeholders. Establishing these complex structures and procedures requires in turn sophisticated systems of controls over public power to safeguard the rule of law. How to build such a system? My main argument is that it is through a framework in which a number of elements need to be connected. These elements include:
- relevant concepts of control (accountability, protection of fundamental rights, etc);
- types of controls (political, judicial, etc) that these concepts may represent;
- analytical prisms that they may create (institutional, decision-driven and rights-driven); and
- systems of controls belonging to different jurisdictions/legal orders in the EU (EU-national and national-national).
For many years, the incorrect application of the Single Market rules has been a concern for the EU. In that respect, the European Commission has expressed its ambition, in compliance and enforcement matters, to be “bigger and more ambitious on big things, and smaller and more modest on small things”. Given its limited resources, it makes sense for the Commission to focus on the “big things”. But then someone else has to take care of the “small things” because, added together, they constitute a serious impediment to the functioning of the Single Market.
How, and by whom, these small things shall be taken care of is the topic of our newly published discussion paper “Reforming compliance management in the Single Market”. In this paper, the National Board of Trade Sweden discusses, after looking at possible alternatives, a decentralisation reform that would consist in setting up national enforcement bodies in each Member State. Their mandate would be to investigate local infringements of EU law and, eventually, to bring actions before the national courts.
Next year, a new European Commission will take office. It will no doubt develop new policies in the field of better regulation as its predecessors have done as well. In 2015, the current Juncker Commission presented the better regulation for better results policy – the EU’s ‘Better Regulation’ agenda. Since then, the Commission published several policies as part of this agenda, inter alia, a policy on effective enforcement in December 2016. More recently, in October 2018, the Commission presented a policy on subsidiarity and proportionality in EU policymaking. With these policies the Commission has made important steps in improving legislative quality in the EU. One element is missing however: the link between legislation and legislative differentiation on the one hand and the effects thereof on enforcement on the other. This would be an important issue for the next Commission to take up as we will demonstrate here.
Civil society organizations provide an important watchdog mechanism in the European policy process. Based on her study on what drives information exchange regarding the implementation of EU gender equality law in practice, Reini Schrama draws three important lessons from the monitoring network of women´s groups in the Netherlands. The aim of monitoring is to gather information and gain access to valuable sources and this requires swift, brokered and broad-based information exchange. Because of this distinct functionality, monitoring networks benefit from a structure of interactions that allows information to spread rapidly across different parts of the network, no matter the preferences or the organizational background of the actors involved.
European Union agencies have recently been highlighted as key sites for enabling future European law enforcement after Brexit. By operating as ‘nodes’ in trans-European scientific and policy networks, they provide a route to EU law enforcement in ‘third countries’ who wish to integrate with EU regulatory standards without full EU membership, creating ‘regulatory harmonisation’. There is an obvious link here to the potential to enforce regulatory arrangements and ensure ‘alignment’ following March 2019. However, ‘agencies’ have very different forms and functions. Some have hundreds of staff, are based in glamorous offices across the Union and have quasi-‘hard’ regulatory powers. Others have a couple of dozen staff and provide a discrete service to EU Directorates Generales, with more of a ‘soft’ monitoring role.
Based on Ellen Mastenbroek’s inaugural lecture ‘More than the sum of its parts’, held at Radboud University, 15 September 2017 and two related articles (Van Voorst and Mastenbroek, 2017; Mastenbroek et al, 2016).
In this contribution, we critically assess the EU’s system for ex-post evaluation, using fresh empirical data. We find that the Commission has not met its repeated ambition to produce systematic and high-quality ex-post evaluation of all important EU legislation. Both the coverage and quality of ex-post evaluations have been variant. This lack of systematic high-quality evaluation is problematic, as such evaluations can fulfill important functions in the EU policy cycle: learning, accountability and improved enforcement. It also bring strategic risks for the Commission, primarily reduced credibility.