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Making States Comply : The European Commission, the European Court of Justice, and the Enforcement of the Internal Market


  • Jonas Tallberg

Summary, in English

One of the central bones of contention in the study of the European Union (EU) is the capacity of its supranational institutions to be a driving force in the process toward deeper integration. Whereas existing research predominantly addresses the institutions’ ability to shape European integration through pre-decisional agenda-setting, this study examines the scope for supranational influence in the post-decisional phase of EU enforcement. Do the Commission and the Court have the capacity to enforce member state compliance in other ways than EU governments desire and originally intended? If so, what are the determinants of such supranational influence in EU enforcement? The study explores these questions by tracing the supranational institutions’ efforts to secure compliance with the European Internal Market in the period 1985-1998. Departing from the fixed and competing conceptions of supranational influence in neofunctionalism and intergovernmentalism, which portray the institutions as either “engines of integration” or “obedient servants,” the study employs a mode of analysis—principal-agent theory—which is specifically designed to explain variations in control and autonomy. The inquiry indicates that the Commission and the Court indeed may succeed in moving EU enforcement beyond member states’ wishes and intentions, but that this capacity is conditioned by the latter’s means for controlling the institutions. Three parallel attempts to strengthen the enforcement of Internal Market rules are traced: efforts to enhance the potential of the Article 169 infringement procedure, attempts to induce the delegation of new and more far-reaching powers at the 1991 and 1996-97 intergovernmental conferences, and concerted moves to independently boost decentralized enforcement through national courts. The examination suggests that the scope for supranational influence is most extensive in the promotion of decentralized enforcement, where governments enjoy fewer means for monitoring and sanctioning the institutions. Another highly significant finding, which confirms untested presumptions in earlier research, is the greater ease with which the Court, as compared to the Commission, can exploit its position to introduce measures which go beyond governments’ preferences.






Lund Political Studies






Lund University


  • Political Science


  • principal-agent
  • supranational
  • rules
  • compliance
  • enforcement
  • European Court of Justice (ECJ)
  • European Union (EU)
  • European Commission
  • Political and administrative sciences
  • Statsvetenskap
  • förvaltningskunskap




  • [unknown] [unknown]


  • ISSN: 0460-0037
  • ISBN: 91-628-3757-5


19 november 1999




Lund, Sweden


  • Kjell Eliassen (Professor)