Compliance or ‘Rule Gain'? Why the European Commission Mobilizes EU Law

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Gilbert Scott Conference Room - 250 (University of Glasgow)
Andreas Hofmann , Centre for European Research (CERGU), University of Gothenburg
The Commission is the single most frequent participant in legal cases before the Court of Justice of the European Union. Empirical research on litigation success has also shown that the Commission wins more cases than any other institutional actor. All the more surprising that there is little systematic research on how the European Commission mobilizes EU law. On the one hand there is the view that the Commission as “guardian of the treaties” acts as a faithful enforcer of EU law against non-complying member states. On the other hand, the work of Susanne Schmidt, Fritz Scharpf and others has presented case study evidence that the Commission can and does use litigation to to advance its policy interests
The proposed paper aims to systematically assess how the European Commission makes use of its  privileged access to both litigation and legislation. It proposes that the Commission is more likely to mobilize EU law when the likelihood of initiating successful legislation is low. This is the case where voting rules in the Council stipulate unanimity, and where the European Parliament has veto powers. Obstacles to legislation also rise, the larger the ideological difference between the Commission and the Council and the Commission and the EP, respectively, and in situations where there is considerable disagreement within the Council. The paper will test these propositions statistically, based on a combination of three datasets containing information on legislative processes, judicial proceedings and the political positions of the actors involved.