Better Implementation Kwartet

Have you been lucky enough to get hold of a copy of the Better Implementation Kwartet? Flicking through the deck cards you will notice it is not just a silly summer game. Nearly every card deals with a field in which implementation of EU laws and regulations can and should be improved.

Over the last decades a lot of institutional energy has been consumed by bringing about new regulation. At the same time surprisingly limited attention has been given to actually guaranteeing follow-up. Unclear, unspecific or incomplete directives and regulations hamper uniform implementation and enforcement. Cooperation between inspectorates/enforcement agencies of Member States and EU remains difficult. In February 2019 17 prime ministers reiterated the importance of efficient implementation and enforcement at all levels, encouraging the new Commission to strengthen the focus on implementation and enforcement and asking for a long-term action plan to make current rules work in practice. We no longer have the luxury of putting regulation first and implementation second.

Better implementation is a responsibility for both Commission and Member States. Member States bear the responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of EU law (good governance). Democratic, fair and effective public administration instils popular trust in government institutions. This is essential to the proper functioning of the Union and society as a whole. Furthermore, stability and resilience are strengthened when agreements are firmly implemented and complied with.

The Commission oversees the application of the treaties, and where necessary uses its enforcement powers. These powers are a cornerstone of the Commission's functioning. The Commission could better play its facilitating role as an honest broker, advisor, and/or provider of best practices as laid down in its Communication of 2016. An evaluation of the approaches set out in the Communication of 2016 is recommended.

Enforcement should be based on impartial, objective and evidence-based information, to ensure uniform application of EU law. Improvement of enforcement capabilities of the Commission should be considered in a balanced way, providing Member States sufficient room to enforce in the most efficient way, and taking into account their national systems wherever possible.The use of the EU-pilot must be encouraged, to continue the close cooperation with Member States in finding practical and speedy solutions to enforcement questions.

A stocktaking of areas where enforcement and/or effective and uniform application of EU law needs to be improved resulted in the following list, that could be expanded further:

  • Internal Market: non-uniform implementation and differentiated enforcement or lack of enforcement lead to barriers experienced by entrepreneurs. Objective and transparent enforcement and a more facilitative role by the Commission are needed;
  • Labour mobility and worker’s rights: insufficient cooperation between Member States (e.g. in exchange of data) causing an uneven playing field and insufficient protection of labour rights;
  • Cross-border food security and (prevention of) food fraud: speedy intra-EU sharing of information is lacking;
  • Environmental legislation: continued focus on adequate enforcement, and further improving the enforceability of environmental legislation.
  • Animal welfare: unclear definitions in regulations lead to differences in implementation;
  • Cross-border enforcement of criminal and administrative pecuniary sanctions.

This stocktaking shows an array of problems for which specific solutions are necessary. The new Commission should undertake a substantial analysis in which areas and through which measures implementation of EU law can be improved. It should also consider twinning new directives and regulations with enforcement guidelines, bearing in mind the need for national tailor-made approaches in accordance with the national enforcement systems. Along these lines, more attention should be paid to enforceability and workability in the legislation process to ultimately achieve better results.

A strong EU consists of strong Member States delivering on the promise of our joint action. 


The examples used in the Better Implementation Kwartet represent a non-exhaustive list. Please share your suggestions with us via @NLatEU and #ImplementBetter.