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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Decoupling Superficial from Substantive Compliance in the Enlarged EU? Evidence from Two Policy Areas

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Comparative Politics
Public Policy
European Union
Asya Zhelyazkova
Department of Public Administration, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Asya Zhelyazkova
Department of Public Administration, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Cansarp Kaya
University of Zurich

This paper presents first findings from an ongoing research project on compliance with EU laws in 27 member states. The project addresses a current debate in the literature: whereas quantitative studies show that the “new” EU entrants from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are the forerunners in the legal incorporation of EU directives into national law (Knill and Tosun, 2009; Sedelmeier, 2008), detailed case studies indicate the existence of a gap between legal and practical compliance with the EU rules (Falkner et al., 2008). The project aims to reconcile these divergent findings by comparing the performance of different EU member states regarding different forms of compliance: timely notification, correct legal and practical implementation. In particular, it addresses the following questions: To what extent do member states engage in “decoupling” superficial (timely notification) and substantive compliance (legal and practical implementation) with EU law and why? Is decoupling a group-specific or a more general phenomenon that does not only concern (some) CEE member states?
To explain decoupling we employ insights from neo-institutional accounts of organizational performance (Meyer and Rowan, 1977; Westphal and Zajac, 1994). It is generally expected that the likelihood of decoupling increases if two conditions are met: 1) there is a lack of transparency in the national implementation process and 2) key domestic actors have divergent interests from the goals set in EU laws. In this paper the hypothesis is tested with quantitative data on member states’ notified and actual compliance with directives from two policy areas: Internal Market and Services and Justice and Home affairs. In addition, we provide some more in-depth qualitative analysis of member states’ practical implementation of the Postal Services Directive.
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