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Implementation of European Law in a federal state: The Belgian case between coherence and autonomy

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The issue of autonomy in federal states and the implementation of Eu law.
    1. The general issue of implementation deficit in federal states.
    2. The paradoxical Belgian case.
  3. Imperfect domestic reforms to reconcile autonomy and coherence.
    1. Reforms towards a cooperative federalism.
    2. The limited impact of the changes.
  4. Conclusion.

?Ultimately the impact of EU rules depends on the willingness and capacity of Member States authorities to ensure that they are transposed and enforced effectively and fully and on time' (Graver) . This statement from the European Commission in its White Paper on Governance deals with the issue of the implementation of the EU law in the Member States. Indeed, the implementation deficit has been a real issue for the efficiency of the European legislation. Among the main countries which have suffered a lack of implementation, we find Belgium, a federal state. Belgium knew a long (25 years) process of constitutional reforms to achieve a federal form. They created a large array of competencies to Belguim's subnational entities and new governments and parliaments. For instance, the Federated States are granted the right to conclude international treaties. These new institutions can act independently from the federal state. In other words, there is no hierarchy between the different governmental levels.

[...] Conclusion Between respect for the autonomy of the Federated States and the coherence of the implementation of European law in Belgium, the Federal State has faced a problem. Cultural fundamentals and competitive federalism have been two elements threatening good implementation in Belgium. Several times, the country has been condemned by the European Court of Justice and disapproved by the European Commission for non-implementation or incorrect implementation. The reform of 1993 tried to find solutions and instituted two mechanisms whose effects were mainly insufficient. [...]


[...] Does Federalism Constrain Europeanization?' http://www.essex.ac.uk/ECPR/events/jointsessions/paperarchive/turin/ws19/BUR SENS.pdf 15Andersen, C., ?European Union Policy-making and National Institutions The Case of Belgium' in Svein S.Andersen and Kjell A.Eliassen (eds.), The European Union: How Demovratic Is It? (London: Sage, 1996), pp.83-100. Andersen, C., ?European Union Policy-making and National Institutions The Case of Belgium' in Svein S.Andersen and Kjell A.Eliassen (eds.), The European Union: How Democratic Is It? (London: Sage, 1996), pp.83-100. Hooghe, L (1995), ?Belgian Federalism and the European Community', in Jones and Keating (eds.), The European Union and the Regions, pp.135-165. [...]


[...] To conclude this part, we can say that aware of EU-law implementation problems, the Belgian State has managed to find institutional answers to create a new dynamic leading to a form of cooperative federalism and to improve its results in terms of implementation of European legislation. However, on a longer term basis, we are going to see that these efforts have been insufficient to resolve the Belgian problem towards the EU law implementation. The limited impact of the changes Belgium is still suffering problems of EU law implementation[20]. [...]

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