The multi-level governance of the European Union (EU) makes the adoption and implementation of its laws and policies vulnerable to the variation in the ability of member state institutions to deliver on their obligations. Studies of EU law compliance have established the relevance of institutional capacity to member state performance. This paper contrasts institutional capacity with an alternative structuralist explanation: the autonomy of state institutions from wider social pressures (such as corruption, clientelism). This follows the emphasis on impartiality in the ‘quality of government’ literature. The paper explores the relative significance of ‘capacity’ and ‘autonomy’ for compliance, but also extends the focus to other areas in which governments fulfil EU obligations. The latter cover core government functions of regulation and distribution, allowing a broader assessment of both propositions. The empirical results, tested against alternative indicators, suggest that ‘autonomy’ (the sociology of the state) matters more than institutional capacity for both EU law compliance and the implementation of EU policies. To this extent, there are important implications for debates on the conditions impacting ‘impartiality’, but also for those on the inclusivity and deepening of the EU integration process.
Kevin Featherstone is Eleftherios Venizelos Professor of Contemporary Greek Studies and Professor of European Politics at the London School of Economics. He is Director of the Hellenic Observatory and Co-Chair of the Dahrendorf Forum Working Group on“The Future Of European Governance”. He has published widely on European Union politics and on politics and history in Modern Greece.
Michael Cottakis is a PhD student at the LSE European Institute and Research Assistant to Kevin Featherstone at the Hellenic Observatory. He is Director of the 89 Initiative.
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