Complying with Europe: EU Harmonisation and Soft Law in the Member States

Gerda Falkner, Oliver Treib, Miriam Hartlapp, Simone Leiber

May 26, 2005

MPIfG Book


Cambridge University Press, 2005
418 pages
ISBN 978-0-521-84994-4
ISBN 978-0-521-61513-6

"This is an important volume that innovates in many respects and should certainly be on your bookshelf." (Philippe Pochet)

» Publisher's page
Falkner, Gerda, Oliver Treib, Miriam Hartlapp, Simone Leiber
Complying with Europe: EU Harmonisation and Soft Law in the Member States. Themes in European Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.


What does EU law truly mean for the member states? Do they abide by it or don't they, and why? Complying with Europe presents the first encompassing and in-depth empirical study of the effects of "voluntaristic" and (partly) "soft" EU policies in the member states. The authors examine ninety case studies across a range of EU Directives and shed light on burning contemporary issues in political science, integration theory and social policy. The book reveals that there are major implementation failures and that, to date, the European Commission has not been able to perform its control function adequately. While all countries are occasional non-compliers, some usually take their EU-related duties seriously (world of law observance). Others frequently privilege their domestic political concerns over the requirements of EU law (world of of domestic politics). A further group of countries neglect these EU obligations almost as a matter of course (world of neglect). This innovative study answers questions of crucial importance for politics in theory and in practice, and suggests how implementation of EU law can be fostered in the future.


1 Introduction: flexible EU governance in domestic practice
2 Theorising the domestic impact of EU law: the state of the art and beyond
3 EU social policy over time: the role of Directives
4 The Employment Contract Information Directive: a small but useful social complement to the internal market
5 The Pregnant Workers Directive: European social policy between protection and employability
6 The Working Time Directive: European standards taken hostage by domestic politics
7 The Young Workers Directive: a safety net with holes
8 The Parental Leave Directive: compulsory policy innovation and voluntary over-implementation
9 The Part-time Work Directive: a facilitator of national reforms
10 Voluntary reforms triggered by the Directives
11 The EU Commission and (non-)compliance in the member states
12 Beyond policy change: convergence of national public-private relations?
13 Implementation across countries and Directives
14 Why do member states fail to comply? Testing the hypotheses suggested in the literature
15 Three worlds of compliance: a typology
16 Conclusions: myth and reality of social Europe


Gerda Falkner

Gerda Falkner, Institut für Höhere Studien, Wien.

Oliver Treib

Oliver Treib, Institut für Höhere Studien, Wien.

Miriam Hartlapp

Miriam Hartlapp, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung.

Simone Leiber

Simone Leiber, Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut in der Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Düsseldorf.


"This is an important volume that innovates in many respects and should certainly be on your bookshelf. In theoretical terms it contributes to the lively debate about Europeanization, while empirically it revives the issue of social Europe, bringing new insights to a theme that had seemed well covered. In practical terms, too, it presents ideas to improve implementation processes."
Philippe Pochet, Observatoire social européen, Brussels, Belgium, in: Journal of European Social Policy, 16(3), 2006, 6–7.
"This is an excellent book on an important theme in European governance, forming an essential part of a wide-ranging, multi-authored series. Its excellence derives from its detailed, scholarly approach which is both exhaustive and, in the end, compelling in its conclusions. Once again it reminds us of the importance of consent, at all levels, if good laws are to prevail over arbitrary behaviour. It is a lesson that Europe has to perhaps relearn in every generation."
Brian Towers, University of Nottingham, in: Industrial Relations Journal 36(6), 613–622.
"[…] this book provides fresh insights into the process of implementation of and compliance with EU law. This is a topic that has recently gained much scholarly attention. This book is a timely contribution to this literature, and to be recommended to all scholars interested in compliance with EU law or in European integration more generally."
Sara Berglund, Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands, in: Acta Politica 42, 2007, 103–106.
"A new study by Gerda Falkner of Vienna and her collaborators reminds us that for many political scientists, and lawyers too, the question of compliance and implementation is best posed at a microscopic than at a macroscopic level. Their detailed study of the EU-wide implementation of a number of controversial measures with redistributive consequences in the area of social and employment policy [...] draws a number of arresting conclusions."
Neil Walker, in: EUI Review autumn 2006, 17–20.
"At a time when there exists a multitude of publications on the Europeanization of government policies, this present study will serve as a benchmark as to the manner in which the impact of European Directives on the member states can be tested." [...] "[...] this is an essential book, not only for the study of European social policies but also, and above all, for a systematic and finely-tuned understanding of the political processes involved in the implementation (or otherwise) of European law."
Bruno Palier, CEVIPOF - Centre de recherches politiques de Sciences Po, Paris, in: EUSA reviews, fall 2006, 17–18.
" [...] readers interested in EU law, especially in social policy convergence, particularly in the area of labour law, will find this an interesting addition to their library."
Dagmar Soennecken, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, in: Law and Politics 15(10), 2006, 896–899.

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