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German Research Institute for Public Administration

Opposition in the EU implementation process: Determinants of national actions for annulment against the European Commission

Over time, the Member States have entrusted the EU Commission with an increasingly important role in the implementation of EU policies. The most central instrument available to the Member States for controlling the Commission is the annulment procedure that allows governments to challenge a decision of the Commission before the ECJ. Besides, annulment actions are an interesting indicator of conflict within the EU multi-level administrative structure. In spite of this, annulment litigation has remained largely ignored by researchers of the EU administrative and judicial systems.

Why do Member States initiate annulment actions? What is the role of institutional, political, and economic factors on governments' decisions to litigate against the Commission? To gain a better understanding of annulment litigation, this project aims at elucidating the reasons behind the variation between Member States with regards to their propensity to initiate actions for annulment.

Drawing into the literature on litigation politics and compliance and implementation in the EU, this research puts forwards three hypotheses. Annulment actions are expected to be conditioned by the institutional structure of the state (federal versus centralized), by the political orientation of the ruling party and by the level of national debt.

In order to assess the relevance of these factors and to identify other possible explanations for the occurrence of annulments procedures, the research will be carried out on the basis case studies. Each case will consist of the combination of a sector with a country and, in each case, eight annulment actions will be investigated. All cases will deal with either agriculture or competition given that both sectors gather the wide majority of annulment proceedings. The countries will be selected so as to ensure a variation at the level of the proposed explanatory factors. The empirical study will follow a process tracing approach based on document and media analysis as well as expert interviews.

Beyond shedding light on the under-researched issue of annulment procedures, by unveiling the determinants of conflict in multi-level administrative systems and studying how claims before the ECJ are used by the Member States to promote their interests, this work aims at contributing to the research on multi-level implementation and litigation politics.

Principal Investigator

Prof. Dr. Michael W. Bauer

Prof. Dr. Michael W. Bauer



Emmanuelle Mathieu

Dr. Emmanuelle Mathieu