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EU Law and Policy – How effectively is it enforced?

More law, or better enforcement?

A new policy focus on enforcement by the current Juncker Commission(2014-2019) has prompted a renewed interest in enforcement of EU law and policy across disciplines. In pursuance of its Better Regulation Agenda, the Juncker Commission has turned its attention to the final stage of the EU policy cycle which it has characterised as ‘monitoring, implementation and enforcement’. The launch of the REFIT Programme alongside the ‘Evaluate First’ principle of policy making has reinvigorated scholarly interest in enforcement, and the European Commission has made it clear that enforcement rather than elaboration of yet more legislation is the main focus of its Work Programme.

What is effective enforcement?

Yet, how effectively is EU law and policy enforced? The enforcement of EU law and policy and, in particular, what constitutes effective enforcement of EU law and policy has been something of a Cinderella discipline in EU legal studies. EU law is a dynamic area of legal development with a vast array of policy areas, and with a veritable cornucopia of case law and legislation. Yet, few legal scholars (in general) have ventured into the world of compliance and enforcement of EU law and policy (ex post to ex ante). There remains a fixation in legal literature with the ‘dual vigilance’ framework of the individual litigant bringing actions before national courts and the European Commission’s centralised enforcement action through infringement proceedings brought under Article 258 TFEU.

Enforcement and Brexit

From a UK perspective, the prospect of withdrawal from the EU has led to an upsurge in awareness of EU law and how it is enforced. What EU rights do we stand to lose with Brexit? If maintained as ‘retained EU law’, how will these EU-derived rights be enforced? If we retain EU policies, how can compliance and enforcement be guaranteed following severance from the EU enforcement architecture? How will the Withdrawal Agreement be enforced? How will enforcement be achieved during the Transition Period? How will any future trade agreement be effectively enforced?

An interdisciplinary approach

It is only through interdisciplinary research that the answers to the challenges to achieving effective enforcement of EU law and policy can be found. Yet, interdisciplinary work on effective enforcement of EU law and policy is often easier said than done. Scholars from the fields of political science, regulation, compliance, behavioural economics, psychology, sociology, evaluation and international relations may be interested in many of the actors, mechanisms, tools and techniques of the enforcement of EU law and policy, but interrogate them from completely different (and sometimes contradictory) starting points. Research assumptions borne of disciplinary silos can erect barriers to fruitful interaction amongst scholars interested in collaboration. Crucially, without interdisciplinary collaboration solutions to complex and multifaceted enforcement problems will continue to be partial in nature. From the bird’s-eye view of enforcement (the overall EU enforcement landscape) to the minutiae of particular pieces of law (or clauses within law); from top down (policy-focused) analysis, to empirical investigation of street-level actors, each perspective of enforcement of EU law and policy can reveal potential enforcement gaps or novel compliance solutions. In a multi-level governance environment questions of what constitutes effectiveenforcement of EU law and policy are intricate and require a holistic appreciation of the enforcement landscape across the board. This is no mean feat – finding a common language to dissect enforcement problems is a challenge all of its own.

Launching a new UACES Collaborative Research Network (CRN)

The purpose of this UACES funded Collaborative Research Network is to bring together scholars from different but cognate disciplines from across the EU and beyond who are working on a broad range of questions on the enforcement of EU law and policy. The network will act as a forum for scholars at every stage of their career and from different disciplines. Members may be working on the enforcement of EU law and policy in the traditional areas such as competition and environment, to more contemporary fields such as migration, data protection and economic governance. Members may be focusing on the strategies and governance of the enforcement regime, on the different actors, or on the range of instruments elaborated by the European Commission to achieve its goals.

The network will host panels at international conferences for members to share recent research findings and to trigger further collaboration. The first panels focusing on the effective enforcement of EU law and policy will take place in the USA in June (ComplianceNet),Switzerland in July (ECPR Conference) and Bath, UK, in September 2018 (UACES Annual Conference).Research meetings will also be held at these conferences so that members can meet in person, network and discuss future activities and events. (Sign up here). A workshop on the Effective Enforcement of EU Law and Policy will be hosted by the network at Cardiff University’s School of Law and Politics in 2019. The website will feature blog posts on new trends and developments across the Union, and in respect to Brexit from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. It will also act as a platform for network members to share their latest research findings. It will carry updates on the network’s events, research meetings and workshops.

Come and join us…

If you are interested in joining the network, please contact us at here with your name, contact details and areas of research expertise which fall within the scope of the network. If you would like to attend a research meeting, contact us here, or to write a blog for the website, please contact us here or here.

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