The Politics of International Oversight

The Politics of International Oversight: Strategic Monitoring and Legal Compliance in the European Union

by Joshua C. Fjelstul, Emory University and Clifford J. CarrubbaEmory University

States often violate international agreements, both accidentally and intentionally. To process complaints efficiently, states can create formal, pre-trial procedures in which governments can negotiate with litigants before a case ever goes to court. If disputes are resolved during pre-trial negotiations, it can be very difficult to tell what has happened. Are governments coming into compliance? If so, are they only doing so when they have accidentally committed a violation, or even when they are intentionally resisting? Or are challenges simply being dropped? This paper presents a formal model to address these questions. We develop our theory in the context of the European Union (EU). To test our model, we collect a new data set of over 13,000 Commission infringement cases against EU member states (2003–2013). Our results suggest that accidental and intentional noncompliance both occur, but that intentional noncompliance is more common in the EU. We find that the Commission is an effective, if imperfect, monitor and enforcer of international law. The Commission can correct intentional noncompliance, but not always. It strategically drops cases that it believes it is unlikely to win.

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American Political Science Review , First View /Published online: March 2018