The Implementation of Community Law in the Member States

Research question/goal: 

The goal of this research project is to assess whether the member states of the European Union implement EU directives correctly and in due time, and which factors might help to explain occurring implementation failures. Over the last twenty years an on-going debate on the extent and relevance of non-compliance has emerged in the EU integration literature. This discussion focuses on Community directives, which require explicit implementation into national law while leaving the choice of implementing measure to the member states (Article 249 EC). The binding nature of directives not only stipulates that directives be implemented, but that successful implementation occurs "in due time" and "correctly" (Prechal, 1995: 20). Due to complex nature of the content of directives compliance studies usually analysed the implementation quality of only a selected directive in selected member states or used rather indirect measures of the implementation quality such as data on infringement procedures issued by the Commission. In order to answer the research questions and to give a quantitative insight into the implementation quality of the EU member states, this study analyzes the implementation record of 21 selected EU directives in all fifteen “old” member states. The quality of the national implementation record should be assessed according to two distinct criteria, namely the timeliness and the correctness of the national transposition measures. This, however, does not require the examination of the implementation of the whole content of the selected directives but only the examination of the implementation of issue-specific obligations of these directives. The required information about the main issues of the selected directives comes from the international research project "Decision Making in the European Union" (Thomson et al. 2006). The evaluation of the national implementation process revealed significant variation across the member states and across the included directives. While states can reach consensus by trading their issue-specific interests on legal obligations on the international level, we find that a state’s issue-specific disagreement, power and administrative capacity mainly explain (in)correct implementation on the national level. International agencies and other states can hardly prevent a state from incorrect implementation, but they can reduce notification duration when the violating state is in a minority position. This suggests that states apply an issue-specific implementation logic within their domestic jurisdictions which promotes non-compliance.

Fact sheet

2007 to 2010
Data Sources: 
Quantitative case studies of the implementation process of E
Geographic Space: 
European Union