Chapter 11 Implementing policies


  • Implementation is the third phase of policy-making and refers to the putting in practice of policies once appropriate legislation has been passed. The phase of implementation is as lengthy as the phases of agenda-setting and decision making. Just like in the two other phases, it often involves struggles between the various EU institutions and the member states because their interests may conflict.
  • Implementation in the EU can best be understood by distinguishing between three phases: legal implementation (involving the transposition of directives and making implementation decisions), practical implementation (involving the actual enactment of policies) and monitoring.
  • The Commission takes about 2500 implementation decisions annually in consultation with the member states through the system of comitology. Several procedures for decision-making exist, with member states having only an advisory role in advisory committees, while being able to block implementation decisions in management and regulatory committees.
  • The Commission actively monitors the implementation of policies both with respect to a timely and correct transposition of legislation into national law, as well as with respect to a correct and complete practical application of policies. If member states fail on any of these aspects, the Commission has the discretion to start an infringement procedure.
  • The courts provide the second important channel through which the implementation of policies is monitored. The principles of supremacy and direct effect require the courts in member states to apply EU law where relevant, ensuring a correct implementation of EU policies. National courts may refer cases with an EU dimension to the Court, which will provide a binding interpretation of the case in the form of a preliminary ruling.
  • In order to assist member states in the implementation of policies a diverse range of agencies have been set up. Regulatory agencies are the most important type of agencies and provide expert advice on implementation.

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