NGOs as new Guardians of the Treaties? Analysing the effectiveness of NGOs as decentralised enforcers of EU law

Esther Versluis, Maastricht University
Esther Versluis, Maastricht University

The EU increasingly relies on national stake-holders such as NGOs to raise non-compliance issues before national courts. In particular the environmental sector has witnessed a shift from centralized infringement procedures initiated by the European Commission to decentralized enforcement by private actors. To shed light on the work and effectiveness of national enforcers, Konstantin Reiners and Esther Versluis analyze the actions taken by the German NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe to encourage compliance of German States with the Ambient Air Quality Directive. In their case study they show that the NGO mostly used litigation (i.e., initiating a high number of legal proceedings) to increase the salience of the topic in national debates and the media. The interplay of public pressure caused by increased issue salience of air quality and legal pressure has positively affected compliance by German states. Overall, these insights indicate that private actors such as NGOS can indeed play a crucial role as additional guardians of the Treaties to tackle national compliance deficits.


Online Special Issue No 1-2022: EU Foreign Policy

We celebrate this year’s Europe Day with our online special issue on EU foreign policy. It compiles a small selection of eleven excellent articles on this topic published in JEPP during the last years. While in the broader public debates about the role of the EU and its foreign policy have attracted increased attention since the start of the war in the Ukraine, coverage of this topic in JEPP has been a constant fixture. Since the first article on the EU’s foreign economic policy was published in JEPP in 1994, almost 90 pieces refer to the term ‘foreign policy’ in the abstract and almost 60 prominently feature it in the title. So, believe us, when we say that it was very hard to decide which articles not to include in our virtual special issue. The result of our efforts brings together research about the making, the design and the consequences of the EU’s foreign policy, about the limits of the EU’s influence as well as about the role of (energy) relations with Russia. Our small collection of articles will be free access until 31 May 2022. We hope you enjoy reading!


Adrian Hyde-Price (2006) ‘Normative’ power Europe: a realist critique, Journal of European Public Policy, 13:2, 217-234, DOI: 10.1080/13501760500451634

Alexander Warkotsch (2008) Non-compliance and instrumental variation in EU democracy promotion, Journal of European Public Policy, 15:2, 227-245, DOI: 10.1080/13501760701817732

Anna Herranz-Surrallés (2016) An emerging EU energy diplomacy? Discursive shifts, enduring practices, Journal of European Public Policy, 23:9, 1386-1405, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2015.1083044

Antoaneta Dimitrova & Rilka Dragneva (2009) Constraining external governance: interdependence with Russia and the CIS as limits to the EU’s rule transfer in the Ukraine, Journal of European Public Policy, 16:6, 853-872, DOI: 10.1080/13501760903087894

Caroline Kuzemko (2014) Ideas, power and change: explaining EU–Russia energy relations, Journal of European Public Policy, 21:1, 58-75, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2013.835062

Kai Hebel & Tobias Lenz (2016) The identity/policy nexus in European foreign policy, Journal of European Public Policy, 23:4, 473-491, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2015.1047398

Maryna Rabinovych (2021) Failing forward and EU foreign policy: the dynamics of ‘integration without membership’ in the Eastern Neighbourhood, Journal of European Public Policy, 28:10, 1688-1705, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2021.1954066

Sophie Meunier & Kalypso Nicolaïdis (2006) The European Union as a conflicted trade power, Journal of European Public Policy, 13:6, 906-925, DOI: 10.1080/13501760600838623

Sophie Vanhoonacker & Karolina Pomorska (2013) The European External Action Service and agenda-setting in European foreign policy, Journal of European Public Policy, 20:9, 1316-1331, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2012.758446

Tom Delreux & Stephan Keukeleire (2017) Informal division of labour in EU foreign policy-making, Journal of European Public Policy, 24:10, 1471-1490, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2016.1216151

Wolfgang Wagner (2003) Why the EU’s common foreign and security policy will remain intergovernmental: a rationalist institutional choice analysis of European crisis management policy, Journal of European Public Policy, 10:4, 576-595, DOI: 10.1080/1350176032000101262


Online Special Issue No 2-2021: The Brexit Referendum

Five years ago, on 23 June 2016, citizens of the United Kingdom and Gibraltar voted in favor of leaving the European Union. Unprecedented in the history of the EU, the Brexit referendum and its consequences generated ample research, which is also reflected in submissions to and publications in JEPP. The first Debate Section on the British exit from the EU discussing the potential effects for the EU was published online in April 2016. Since then, 128 articles appeared in JEPP analyzing the referendum’s political, financial and legal implications for Great Britain and the EU, its importance as electoral issue or its meaning for theories of European integration. To mark the fifth “anniversary” of the Brexit vote, we highlight seven of these excellent contributions in this online Special Issue – consider putting them on your academic summer reading list! They are free access until 31 July 2021.

Alexander Spencer & Kai Oppermann (2020) Narrative genres of Brexit: the Leave campaign and the success of romance, Journal of European Public Policy, 27:5, 666-684, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2019.1662828

Claire A. Dunlop, Scott James & Claudio M. Radaelli (2020) Can’t get no learning: the Brexit fiasco through the lens of policy learning, Journal of European Public Policy, 27:5, 703-722, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2019.1667415

Darrin Baines, Sharron Brewer & Adrian Kay (2020) Political, process and programme failures in the Brexit fiasco: exploring the role of policy deception, Journal of European Public Policy, 27:5, 742-760, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2020.1722203

David Howarth & Lucia Quaglia (2018) Brexit and the battle for financial services, Journal of European Public Policy, 25:8, 1118-1136, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2018.1467950

Filipa Figueira & Benjamin Martill (2020) Bounded rationality and the Brexit negotiations: why Britain failed to understand the EU, Journal of European Public Policy, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2020.1810103

Michael Keating (2021) Taking back control? Brexit and the territorial constitution of the United Kingdom, Journal of European Public Policy, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2021.1876156

Sara B. Hobolt (2016) The Brexit vote: a divided nation, a divided continent, Journal of European Public Policy, 23:9, 1259-1277, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2016.1225785

Online Special Issue No 1-2021: A Reading List on European Integration

This year, May 9th marks the 71st anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. We would like to celebrate this occasion by highlighting eight great contributions to the scholarship on European Integration. The choice was difficult, as you can imagine, since JEPP published almost 950 articles that at least mentioned ‘European Integration’, around 90 that referred to the term in the keywords and 70 that prominently placed it in the title between 1994 and 2021. The authors provide very different perspectives and angles, from explaining EU integration in normal times and crisis episodes, public attitudes about integration, to the effects of European integration on domestic processes and actors. So, we are convinced the pieces from our online special issue are a great addition to your reading list. Our small collection of articles will be free access until 31 May 2021. Enjoy reading:


Bryan Wendon (1994) British trade union responses to European integration, Journal of European Public Policy, 1:2, 243-261, DOI: 10.1080/13501769408406957

Alec Stone Sweet & Wayne Sandholtz (1997) European integration and supranational governance, Journal of European Public Policy, 4:3, 297-317, DOI: 10.1080/13501769780000011

Ian Bailey (2002) National adaptation to European integration: institutional vetoes and goodness-of-fit, Journal of European Public Policy, 9:5, 791-811, DOI: 10.1080/13501760210162366

Anke Hassel, Jette Steen Knudsen & Bettina Wagner (2016) Winning the battle or losing the war: the impact of European integration on labour market institutions in Germany and Denmark, Journal of European Public Policy, 23:8, 1218-1239, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2016.1186209

Kathryn Simpson & Matthew Loveless (2017) Another chance? Concerns about inequality, support for the European Union and further European integration, Journal of European Public Policy, 24:7, 1069-1089, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2016.1170872

Tanja A. Börzel & Thomas Risse (2018) From the euro to the Schengen crises: European integration theories, politicization, and identity politics, Journal of European Public Policy, 25:1, 83-108, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2017.1310281

Liesbet Hooghe & Gary Marks (2019) Grand theories of European integration in the twenty-first century, Journal of European Public Policy, 26:8, 1113-1133, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2019.1569711

Cengiz Erisen, Sofia Vasilopoulou & Cigdem Kentmen-Cin (2020) Emotional reactions to immigration and support for EU cooperation on immigration and terrorism, Journal of European Public Policy, 27:6, 795-813, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2019.1630470

External borders and internal freedoms: how the refugee crisis shaped the bordering preferences of European citizens

Philipp Lutz (University of Geneva)
Philipp Lutz (University of Geneva)

Does an external shock affect public opinion about adequate internal and external border restrictions in Europe? Yes and no, is the answer from Philipp Lutz and his co-author in the recently published article “External borders and internal freedoms: how the refugee crisis shaped the bordering preferences of European citizens”. The authors argue that the irregular inflow of immigrants, understood as a failure of external exclusion, could go hand in hand with citizens’ decreasing support for free movement within Europe. According to their rationale, the external threat posed by immigration might activate feelings of national identity and fuel scepticism about the EU’s ability to guarantee the integrity of internal freedoms. Drawing on Eurobarometer data between 2012 and 2018, their findings highlight that Europeans’ long-term support for free movement has been unaffected by the refugee crisis. In contrast, after the crisis citizens became more positive about internal migration and increasingly preferred border controls at the European, rather than at their national borders. Based on these findings Philipp Lutz and Felix Karstens conclude that political elites’ fears that failure to limit irregular border crossings undermines public support for free freedom of movement within Europe or the European model as a whole is unsubstantiated.


The use of pseudo-causal narratives in EU policies: the case of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa

Natascha Zaun (LSE)
Natascha Zaun (LSE)
Olivia Nantermoz (LSE)
Olivia Nantermoz (LSE)







In light of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015, the EU founded the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (‘EUTF’) to address ‘root causes’ of migration through preventive measures in countries of origin. EU policymakers adopted this framing of aid as a tool to prevent migratory movements even though it contradicts the broad academic consensus that development makes migration more likely. To understand how the misleading ‘root causes’ narrative gained political traction, Natasha Zaun and Olivia Nantermoz assess how EU policymakers created the assumption that development aid reduces migration flows in their recently published article “The use of pseudo-causal narratives in EU policies: the case of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa”. The frame analyses demonstrate that policy actors used the ‘root cause’ narrative against better evidence in order to signal that the EU actively responded to the ‘crisis’. It allowed the European Commission to rally support and reassert its legitimacy at a time when criticism over its inability to resolve the internal struggles became increasingly strong. The findings imply that even technocratic actors, which are expected to base their work on expertise and knowledge, strategically promote unwarranted causal narratives to legitimize their role politically when they are under pressure

Externalising internal policies via conflict: the EU’s indirect influence on international institutions

Manuel Becker (Uni Bamberg)
Manuel Becker (Uni Bamberg)

The recently published article “Externalising internal policies via conflict: the EU’s indirect influence on international institutions” by Manuel Becker proposes an innovative causal mechanism of how the EU might – intentionally or unintentionally – compel external institutions to adjust to EU policies. Manuel Becker argues that if European regulatory policies cause important European market actors to suspend the rules and obligations of other institutions, the EU can create a conflict that undermines the effectiveness of international institutions. To dissolve this conflict, external institutions need to enable mutual compliance for European market actors by realigning its policies towards European objectives. To test this proposed mechanism, the EU’s externalization of data protection to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the externalization of European fundamental rights to the UN Security Council (UNSC) serve as cases. Process-tracing reveals that the EU has indeed leverage over international institutions’ policies under specific conditions: The European actors’ market share needs to be sufficiently important to the international institution. The UNSC e.g. adapted its policies after the European Court of Justice ruled that European private banks have to release financial assets of individuals and entities connected to Al-Qaida since the UNSC’s listing procedures violated European fundamental rights. In this case, the EU had great leverage over the functionality of the international sanctions regime as the Eurozone had by far the biggest banking sector and thus was considered a central player. Overall, the article implies that creating a vertical regulatory conflict can serve as an indirect tool of influence and can enhance the EU’s status as an independent player in international regulation.


Congruent with whom? Parties’ issue emphases and voter preferences in welfare politics

Michael Pinggera (University of Zurich)

In recent decades, voters’ support for the expansion of the welfare state has increased, as has conflict over its specific design. How have political parties adapted their policy positions in light of this transformation of political demand? In his recently published article “Congruent with whom? Parties’ issue emphases and voter preferences in welfare politics”, Michael Pinggera investigates whether parties’ social policy emphases match the preferences of partisan voters, the median voter, or both. Drawing on original data from election manifestos and individual-level survey data from seven West European countries, Michael shows that parties focus on issues that are overly supported by both partisans and the median voter. Interestingly this finding also holds for radical right parties, even though previous literature would lead to expect that they are closer to their own supporters rather than the general electorate. However, issue emphases across parties differ in line with the demands of the parties’ voters. The findings imply that while politics has become issue-based in recent years, parties still remain representatives of social groups.


The European Parliament’s mandate for trilogues: explaining the discretion of political group advisors

Emmy Ruiter (Utrecht University)

A high share of EU legislative proposals is decided upon in a fast-tracked process called ‘trilogues’ taking place between representatives of the European Parliament, Council and Commission. To understand the EU’s inter-institutional negotiations, Emmy Ruiter investigates the way in which EU institutions internally prepare for these talks in her recent article The European Parliament’s mandate for trilogues: explaining the discretion of political group advisors. Based on interviews and a survey, Emmy demonstrates that Political Group Advisors (PGA) participate extensively in the intra-EP mandating process preceding trilogues. In particular during the early stages of co-ordination, they enjoy high levels of autonomy. Ahead of group and shadows meetings, PGAs act without well-defined instructions and base their actions on what they assume is in line with the group’s political agenda. She concludes with a normative caveat: “we need to consider the possible implications of PGAs’ autonomy for the legitimacy of EP decision-making“.


Dieselgate and Eurolegalism. How a scandal fosters the Americanization of European law

Katharina van Elten (Ruhr Universität Bochum) & Britta Rehder (Ruhr Universität Bochum)

Following revelations that Germany’s largest car manufacturer had manipulated emission readings in its diesel cars, the German government’s decision to deny European owners of affected vehicles financial compensation had an arguably unforeseen and certainly unintended effect on both the German and European legal systems. In their article “Dieselgate and Eurolegalism. How a scandal fosters the Americanization of European law” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Katharina van Elten and Britta Rehder show how the German government’s decision spurred a transnational coalition of consumer organizations and law firms to take to the courts and challenge an unfavourable political decision through legal means. Historically uncommon in a European context, such litigation strategies appeared at odds with Germany’s traditional corporatist government-industry connections but were welcomed by the European Commission. Katharina and Britta trace a process that unfolded in the wake of the emissions scandal in Germany and ultimately concluded with a strengthening of collective litigation rights at the European level, most importantly through the ‘New Deal for Consumers’ Directive, which established a European collective redress mechanism. Katharina and Britta conclude that in “what seems to be the most important implication of the affair over emissions manipulation in diesel cars, class-action-style-models making it easier to pursue collective redress in civil courts have become a reality, not only in Germany but also at a European level.”