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151 Working Paper

Recalcitrance, Inefficiency, and Support for European Integration: Why Member States Do (Not) Comply with European Law

2007 – Tanja A. Börzel, Meike Dudziak, Tobias Hofmann, Diana Panke and Carina Sprungk


This paper seeks to explain inter-state variation in non-compliance with European law. While non-compliance has not significantly increased over time, some member states violate European law more frequently than others. In order to account for the variance observed, we draw on three prominent approaches in the compliance literature – enforcement, management, and legitimacy. In the first place, we develop a set of hypotheses for each of the three theories. We then discuss how they can be combined in theoretically consistent ways and develop three integrated models. Finally, we empirically test these models drawing on a unique and comprehensive dataset, which comprises more than 6,300 instances of member-state non-compliance with European law between 1978 and 1999. The empirical findings show that the combined model of the enforcement and the management approach turns out to have the highest explanatory power. Politically powerful member states are most likely to violate European law while the best compliers are small countries with highly efficient bureaucracies. Yet, administrative capacity also matters for powerful member states. The UK and Germany are much more compliant than France and Italy, which command similar political power but whose administrations are ridden by bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption.