Willing and able? Compliance with civil liberties in the EU

Julia Schmälter (University of Duisburg-Essen)

The EU is often regarded as a beacon of human rights. But given the strain human rights commitments imply for member states’ sovereignty, why is it that almost all EU member states faithfully comply with fundamental civil liberties? In her article “Willing and able? A two-level theory on compliance with civil liberties in the EU” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Julia Schmälter argues that member states’ willingness and capability are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for the EU’s near-universal respect for civil liberties. Julia identifies three substitutable forms of capability conducive to compliance with civil liberties, namely judicial capability, executive capability and democratic experience. Where either of these conditions is complemented by a political system of checks and balances, a strong civil society or a member state’s active participation in an international organization, full compliance with civil liberties can be expected. Results from a fuzzy-set analysis of compliance across EU member states suggest that “member states tend to comply with civil liberties when they are both able and willing to do so.”