ARENA Tuesday seminar: R. Daniel Kelemen (online)

R. Daniel Kelemen presents the paper 'Where Have the Guardians Gone? Law Enforcement and the Politics of Forbearance in the European Union' co-authored with Tom Pavone at the ARENA Tuesday seminar on 26 October 2021.


In the European Union (EU), the European Commission plays two fundamental roles – serving as the political “engine of integration” and as the legal “guardian of the Treaties.” While there has been considerable controversy surrounding the Commission’s policymaking role as an engine of integration, the Commission’s role as the guardian of the Treaties has been seen by most observers as more resilient and less subject to challenge. For decades, the Commission actively embraced its role as law enforcer, opening a steadily increasing number of infringements against member states from the 1970s through the early 2000s. But something striking and puzzling has happened in the past two decades: The number of infringements brought by the Commission against member states has plummeted since 2004. What explains the dramatic and counterintuitive decline in law enforcement by the European Commission? We argue that the Commission dramatically decreased its use of infringement procedures through what Alisha Holland (2016) calls a politics of “forbearance” – the deliberate and revocable under-enforcement of the law. Alarmed that vigorous law enforcement was irritating national governments and jeopardizing its already precarious agenda-setting role, the Commission's political leadership adopted a policy of forbearance that privileged conciliatory political dialogue and curtailed adversarial law enforcement. While the timing and details of this story are specific to the EU, our basic account holds much broader implications for the study of law enforcement in international organizations facing erosion in intergovernmental support.

Download 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 Do not cite without permission from the author.

The event is online. If you would like to attend digitally, contact Birthe Einen to get the zoom link. 

Published Sep. 1, 2021 1:29 PM - Last modified May 31, 2022 1:21 PM