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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Good Europeans, bad Europeans: Time to revisit a couple of labels?

It's that time of year when the European Commission either assigns gold stars to or puts black marks against member states based on how they implement EU rules. The Commission notes that the number of infringement procedures opened against EU member states is consistently decreasing - from 2,900 at the end of 2009 to 1,343 at the end of 2012. So the kids are behaving better overall.

At the end of 2012, the UK had 61 pending infringement procedures - meaning that the European Commission believes the UK is breaching EU law in 61 cases. That seems quite a lot, but, in fact, the UK is facing less infringement procedures than half of the EU's founding members: Italy (undisputed leader for the ninth consecutive year, 99 pending cases), Belgium (92) and France (63). And it's even with another founding member, Germany. Not bad, for a country usually seen as the 'troublemaker' of the bloc.

Out of curiosity, we took one step further - and looked at the ECJ's latest annual report of activities. There, we found the number of "judgments concerning the failure of a member state to fulfill its obligations" - that is, how many times EU judges have actually ruled that a country either broke or refused to implement EU rules.

Look at this graph (click to enlarge):


Between 2008 and 2012, the UK has been found guilty of breaching EU law in 14 cases, of which two times last year. A Mediterranean trio of Italy, Spain and Greece (46 infringements declared), France (33) and Germany (19) all figure ahead of the UK. Interestingly, the graph also shows that the EU's newest member states have been better at implementing EU rules than the bloc's founding members.

We may be repeating ourselves a bit, but this serves as another reminder that those countries often labelled as 'good Europeans' don't always have the best record of playing by the EU's rules.

6 comments:

Rik said...

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And this is for a large part intensions.

A more important issue is the execution of things. And countries like the baltics are simply pretty poor there.
Why is the execution more important? Well simply because this is where the EU wide PR plays. Not meeting a directive will hardly get you in Swedish, german, Dutch, British papers but roads to nowhere do. And even if it would do that there would be very little fall out.
In that process execution problems are very efficient in eroding the credibility (which is already a huge problem) of the EU and its institutions.

Because of that I see the compliance on the ground (not only no corruption but also that measures are effective (and the EU buck simply buys something useful) as one of the top priorities of the EU.
This is eroding the platform for everything EUish and especially in the North/West. The South and East are happy relatively at least as compared to the EU thier own systems are simply crap. With the North and the West it is the other way around.

The trend is simply erosions and all over the place and pretty rapid as well. Not unlogical as you compare bad EU news to good EU news in the NW media.
And the issue doesnot look as it will solve itself. The thing that could change it is EU getting its house inorder and bring compliance to Western standards (or even better as there in governmental books also a lot of funny stuff is going around).

Also seen the fact that the NW are the ones who pay the piper. They are the ones with their fingers on the financial plug.

jon livesey said...

I'm not sure that I agree with your analysis. To be a "good European" does not necessarily mean to be the best at following EU law.

From the point of the 'project' a country could be a "good European" if it supports the further integration and federalization of Europe.

And such a country's citizens could be more in favour of the extension of EU powers if they do *not* feel the full effects. And a way to spare them the full effects is simply not to implement all EU regulations.

The EU can afford to smile on the failure of sufficiently pro-EU countries to keep to the rules. As long as they support the extension of EU power, the time will come sooner or later when they have no choice.

Jesper said...

Do the statistics in any way indicate how well nations might honour hypothetical 'reform contracts'?

Rollo said...

So, obviously, we are about the worst of all Europeans, accepting as we do the dictates of this unelected body. A good European would tell them to take a running jump. It is certainly true that we have a corps of people gold-plating and enforcing European diktats when every sensible state pays lip-service and then ignores them. We are damaging ourselves with our grovelling obedience.

Anonymous said...

The UK has proven to be a safety valve for Europe on at least two occasions over the last c.100 years.

Removing the safety valve has massive implications for the UK in areas such as loss of freedoms, democracy and peace. The people of Europe have become mere sheep, yet again.

If being a good Eurpoean comes down to just towing the line in the face of ridiculous dictats from a biased and unelected body called the EU then we are better off out of it.

We desperately need a visionary and a statesman in Europe (but more than ever in the UK) to stop this nonsense.

Our laws and way of life work - why do we need to have change forced on us?

SC

IDRIS FRANCIS said...

Oh dear, oh dear oh dear......

UK is facing less infringement procedures than

NO! It should be

UK is facing FEWER infringement procedures than

(Tip - "fewer" for anything counted in discrete steps or integers - such as infringements or bags if coal, "less" for continuously variable things like pounds of apples or tons of coal.)

"If being a good Eurpoean comes down to just towing the line"

NO!

"If being a good Eurpoean comes down to just TOEING the line" as in stepping up to a start line until one's toes almost touch it.

Other than the above, well done Jon, Rollo and Anonymous.

One other point - I would be seriously concerned if the Americans and GCHQ were not monitoring German High Command communications - doing so won WW2 for us, and with any luck will help us win our freedom again so that we can tell the EU and ECJ what they can do with their Directives.