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Non-compliance with law beyond the nation-state (2002-2006)

Principal Investigator:


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This four-year project funded by the German Research Council analysed conditions under which states do (not) comply with law beyond the nation-state. It developed hypotheses for explaining non-compliance from the existing literature and tests them systematically for the area of European law. We therefore drew on a database which includes almost 10,000 infringements of EU member states against EU law in the last 30 years. The large number of cases, which vary according to policy sectors, memberstates, type of legal acts as well as type of violation, allowed for the first time to actually test explanatory factors by using quantitative methods. How effective aresanctions for deterring states from violating law beyond the nation‐state? To which extent is (non-)compliance a matter of state capacity? Does the perceived legitimacy of a rule matter for the actual level of compliance? What is the role of supranational institutions like the European Commission or the European Court of Justice for monitoring and enforcing compliance? Do non-state actors effectively act as compliance proponents or opponents?

The quantitative analysis has already shown that capacity-related variables like bureaucratic efficiency have a lot of explanatory power for the level of non-compliance in the EU. Qualitative case-studies were conducted in order to complete the quantitative approach and to disentangle the underlying causal mechanisms which result in (non-)compliance with a rule. Cases have been selected, on the onehand, by analyzing two compliance ‘laggards’, who both infringe frequently on EU law, but perform differently on a number of explanatory factors (Greece and Italy) and, on the other hand, by analyzing one compliance ‘leader’ and one compliance‘laggard’, which vary in their propensity to violate EU law, but perform similarly onmany explanatory variables (United Kingdom and France). The comparative casestudies specifically draw on the implementation of EU environmental directives. Apart from completing the findings of the quantitative analyses, the comparative case studies also analysed to which extent (non-) compliant behavior can be explained by mechanisms of learning and persuasion, since the corresponding hypotheses are hardly quantifiable. Finally, the project explored interaction effects between the different compliance mechanisms.


  • Börzel, Tanja A., Tobias Hofmann, Diana Panke (2012) Caving in or Sitting it Out? Longitudinal Patterns of Non-Compliance in the European Union, Journal of European Public Policy 19 (4): 454-471.
  • Börzel, Tanja A., Tobias Hofmann, Diana Panke, Carina Sprungk (2010):Obstinate and Inefficient: Why Member States Do Not Comply With European Law, Comparative Political Studies, 43(11), 1363-1390.
  • Dataset: zip-file
  • Börzel, Tanja A., Meike Dudziak, Tobias Hofmann, Diana Panke, Carina Sprungk (2006): Warum sich Staaten (nicht) an Regeln halten. DNR Sonderheft.
  • Börzel, Tanja A. (2005): Participation through law enforcement. The case of the European Union. Paper prepared for the presentation at the annual convention of the American Political Science Association, Washington , D.C. , September 1-4, 2005.
  • Börzel, Tanja A., Tobias Hofmann, Carina Sprungk (2003): Einhaltung von Recht jenseits des Nationalstaats. Zur Implementationslogik marktkorrigierender Regelungen in der EU, Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen, 10, 2, 247-86.
  • Börzel, Tanja A. (2003a): Guarding the Treaty: The Compliance Strategies of the European Commission. In: Tanja A. Börzel and Rachel Cischowski (eds.), The State of the European Union VI: Law, Politics, and Society. Oxford : Oxford University Press: 197-220.
  • Börzel, Tanja A. (2002): Pace-Setting, Foot-Dragging and Fence-Sitting: Member State Responses to Europeanization, Journal of Common Market Studies, 40, 2, 193-214.
  • Panke, Diana (2007): The European Court of Justice as an agent of Europeanization? Restoring compliance with EU law, Journal of European Public Policy, 14, 6, 847-866.