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The Politics of Law in the European Union

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Why Noncompliance: The Politics of Law in the European Union traces the history of noncompliance within the European Union (EU), focusing on which states continuously do or do not follow EU law, why, and how that affects the governance in the EU and beyond. Here’s our Q&A with author Tanja A. Börzel, and further insight into her research on the EU’s long and varied history of noncompliance.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

In March 2000, I was desperate. For two years, I had been coding hundreds of individual cases which the Commission had published on the legal proceedings against member states for violating EU law. The numbers simply did not add up. When I confronted a Commission official, I obtained a complicated explanation that had something to do with reporting methods. Two days later, I received an email with the entire EU internal data set on infringement proceedings open between 1978 up to 1999. This was the beginning of the Berlin Infringement Database (BID). 

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

I knew that politicization mattered. But it took me quite some time to realize that it can cut both ways: In the adoption of EU law, high politicization reduces the chances of noncompliance by strengthening the power of member states to shape EU laws according to their preferences.  In the implementation of EU law, politicization increases the likelihood of noncompliance by mobilizing domestic veto players.

3. How do you wish you could change the field of Political Science?

The book relies on quantitative methods to drive its arguments home that politicization for compliance. I would wish to counter the tendency I see in quantitative research to address ever smaller questions with ever more sophisticated methods by showing that even basic statistics can help answering big questions.

*Featured photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash.

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Tanja A. Börzel is professor of political science and holds the Chair for European Integration at Freie Universität Berlin. She is author of Effective Governance under Anarchy and Environmental Leaders and Laggards in Europe.

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