ARENA Tuesday Seminar: Ellen Mastenbroek

At the ARENA Tuesday Seminar on 11 February 2014 Dr. Ellen Mastenbroek from Radboud University Nijmegen presented the paper 'Towards More Effective Problem-Solving? Analysing the ex-post Evaluation of European Union Legislation'.

Photo: Radboud University Nijmegen

The paper was co-authored by Ellen Mastenbroek, Stijn van Voorst (Radboud University Nijmegen) and Anne Meuwese (Tilburg Law School).

The authors argue that ex-post evaluations can fulfil a crucial function in the European regulatory process. By critically assessing the actual functioning and outcomes of legislation, ex-post evaluation enables policy makers to establish faults in the linkages between law-on-paper and actual effects. Evaluations can for instance identify critical problems in the policy implementation phase, and provide information which again may serve as a basis for learning, modification, simplification, or even the repealing of legislation, so as to optimize legislative effectiveness. In short, ex-post regulatory evaluations may lead to more effective societal problem-solving, which is important given the European Union’s pressing legitimacy deficit.

At the same time, the paper points out that the European Commission may have incentives not to evaluate, as evaluations may lead to pressure for policy change in cases where the Commission prefers status quo. Also, evaluations may be used as a strategic tool by the Commission, for instance in disciplining member states’ implementation practices. This may in turn impede serious lesson-drawing. By evaluating the Commission’s own evaluation system, the paper aims to analyse to what extent the EU’s evaluation practice is up to the task of enhancing regulatory problem-solving.

The paper builds on an impressive collection of data comprising the Commission’s evaluation reports: two novel datasets have been created, containing 156 major pieces of law adopted from 2000 to 2002, and 181 ex-post legislative evaluations from 2000 to 2012. The quality of evaluations is appraised by looking at indicators drawn from the evaluation literature, such as capacity, transparency and stakeholder involvement, methodological validity and reliability, and usefulness.

In the discussion that followed the presentation, questions were raised regarding methods and data as well as the theoretical relevance of the empirical material. In particular the empirical and theoretical relationship between high-quality policy evaluations and effectiveness on the one hand, and evaluations and legitimacy on the other hand, received much attention. Furthermore, it was asked how the practice of evaluations relates to the role of the Commission and the general policy cycle. Moreover, the discussion centred on to what extent the data material actually says something about whether evaluations are fit for enhancing regulatory problem-solving, or would be more useful in saying something about the Commission’s actual evaluation practice – such as to what extent and how the Commission uses evaluations, or to what extent the Commission follows up its intentions of evaluating policy output.

By Nina M. Vestlund


Download the paper (restricted access)

Please note that this paper is work in progress and thus has limited distribution, please contact us if you would like access. Do not cite without permission from the author.


Ellen Mastenbroek is Associate Professor in Public Administration at the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. Her main research areas include the europeanisation of national administration and policies, EU compliance, as well as legislative evaluation in the Europan Union. She earned her PhD in 2007 at Leiden University for her dissertation 'The Politics of Transposition: Explaining the Transposition of EC Directives in the Netherlands'. She is coordinator of EUROPAL, a Radboud University based research group on Europanisation of Policy and Law. Mastenbroek has published several book chapters and articles in international refereed journals.


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Published Jan. 10, 2014 9:29 AM - Last modified Apr. 24, 2017 3:10 PM