Power of implementation

Once the law is adopted by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, it must be implemented in Member States. The Commission ensures that the implementation has been completed correctly and fully. Due to the relatively small size of the Commission, this is done indirectly: every Member State reports back to the Commission on the progress of the implementation. If for any reason a Member State avoids to do so, the Commission may rely on other less formal sources of information such as interest groups and corporations (McCormick, 2011 B, p.181).

You are probably interested in what happens when a Member State does not apply the law or does it too slowly and not-effectively?

In this case, the Commission can take three steps. This is the so-called non-compliance procedure:


  1. A letter of Formal Notice can be sent with a deadline to comply (about 2 months)
  2. If the problem is not solved a Reasoned Opinion is issued. It is a coherent and detailed statement of the reasons why the Commission concludes that the Member State has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Treaties and with a deadline to comply
  3. If there is still no compliance a litigation procedure against the Member State is opened. The Commission can take the Member State to the European Court of Justice

(McCormick, 2011 B, p.182).

 The Commission also makes the failure public. Every year it produces a report on monitoring the application of EU law.


See the Commission’s report for the year 2015. Which countries have been slow in adopting EU legislation? Against which countries did the Commission have to open the litigation procedure? What were the most infringement-prone policy areas in 2015? (See pages 18-20)


Interested in non-compliance and why it happens? Read this text:  Börzel, T. (2000). Why there is no ‘southern problem’. On environmental leaders and laggards in the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy, 7 (1), 141-162.

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