Towards successful enforcement of EU laws and policies: trends, threats and opportunities

Thematic Scope

Being one of the key projects of RENFORCE since 2014, we are the central point of information, research and discussion of the issues concerning enforcement of EU laws and policies. Law enforcement has long been regarded an exclusive task for the EU Member States. Since recently, new models of enforcement in the EU have been emerging. In addition, new enforcement agencies, networks and other forms of transnational cooperation have been established. Also, the EU has become to influence how national implementation of EU laws, norms and standards should be organized and executed.

This building block of Renforce integrates the expertise and work of several Renforce scholars and practitioners of different legal and extra-legal backgrounds. Our cross-sectoral approach enables us to merge and combine a wide variety of policy areas, including financial market supervision, competition law enforcement, criminal law and fraud-prevention, migration, anti-money laundering, intellectual property law and other sectors of economy (health, aviation, environment), study them from the viewpoint of a number of overarching issues.

These are:

  • The increasing influence of the EU on national enforcement systems, focusing on the protection of fundamental rights, accountability and other forms of control, the digitalization of enforcement and the relationships between private and public enforcement;
  • Transnational enforcement cooperation in the EU and the external enforcement dimension of common European policies;
  • Law enforcement directly or with assistance of European institutions, bodies and agencies (supranationalization of enforcement).

This building block of RENFORCE includes a number sub-projects, which help us to reach this aim. We have the ambition to contribute to the emerging debate on and formation of EU law enforcement strategy and theory.


You are welcome to contact the coordinator of this project, Aart de Vries, with your (research) inquiries and other suggestions!

Our network

Our network includes experts coming from different academic backgrounds – universities, and both EU and national agencies and public institutions, such as the World Bank, the EU Commission, the EU Parliament, the EU Banking Authority and the EU Central Bank.

Our (Research) Projects

Map of the world with connected dots

APPEAL project led by Matteo Gargantini

In recent decades, the European Union has increasingly relied on EU agencies to improve the quality of its administrative action. At the same time, the conferral of crucial powers on independent administrative bodies has made accountability key to ensure the proper exercise of the new decentralized functions. Among the legal tools deployed to keep the administrative action accountable, an important role is performed by the Boards of appeal operating within the same agencies. Jointly run by the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg, the University of Bologna and the University of Utrecht, and with the contribution of the Boards of Appeal of the EUIPO, the APPEAL Research Project aims to analyse the role of the internal appellate bodies and to identify common best practices within the procedural rules applicable to this form of administrative review Coordinated by RENFORCE and jointly run with the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg and the University of Bologna, the Project benefits from the close cooperation with various members of appellate bodies (including those active within the EUIPO, the ESAs, and the SRB). The APPEAL Project is also affiliated with the Dispute Resolution in Economic Law Project coordinated by the University of Bologna (awarded with a grant from the Research Fund Programme of the Italian Ministry of Education – PRIN).

As of March 2021, Sofie Oosterhuis is a PhD candidate on the topic of Boards of Appeal of EU agencies (Rob Widdershoven, Matteo Gargantini and Mira Scholten are the supervising team for this PhD project). Her PhD project focuses on the position and the functioning of the Boards of Appeal within the European administration. There are still many questions surrounding the nature of this appeal mechanism. They are considered to be hybrid (or quasi-judicial) bodies, but at the same time they are operating more as a judicial mechanism rather than an administrative mechanism, like they were originally intended to be. Her research is part of RENFORCE and ERI: Empirical Research into Institutions for conflict resolution. The research, therefore, has a strong emphasis on empirical methods.

Joint Investigation Teams – Effective Institutions for Cross-border Law Enforcement?

The project aims to research the effectiveness and legitimacy of Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) as an institution for cross-border law enforcement. It will include an exploration of the legal and policy contexts within which JITs have emerged and currently operate to allow identification of possible deficiencies in those frameworks, as well as a study of the obstacles encountered in practice by JIT participants. The perspectives of law enforcement officials will be supplemented by those of the defence, and the role of private actors within/alongside JITs will also be considered. Ultimately, the aim of the research is evaluative: providing a normative assessment of JITs and recommendations for improvement of their functioning. The project is conducted by Deborah Nidel, under the supervision of Michiel Luchtman and dr. Brianne McGonigle-Leigh. It is a part of the Empirical Research into Institutions for conflict resolution (ERI).

The rise of EU law enforcement authorities - Protecting fundamental rights and liberties in a transnational law enforcement area, by Michiel Luchtman, Iro Karagianni and Koen Bovend’Eerdt

This NWO-funded VIDI-project analyses how EU authorities are performing law enforcement tasks, in light of their duty to respect fundamental rights. The European Central Bank and Single Supervisory Mechanism can for instance impose administrative fines on financial institutions or refer cases to national authorities for prosecution. OLAF, Eurojust and the newly established European Public Prosecutor’s Office have coordinating, investigative or even prosecutorial tasks in the area of fraud against the financial interests of the EU.

The powers of these authorities are still largely defined by the national laws of individual EU member States. The legal frameworks for the authorities are decentralized and integrated into the national legal orders. As differences between national regimes exist, conflicts of law, deliberate circumvention of safeguards (forum shopping) or races to the bottom may lead to arbitrary interferences with fundamental rights of individuals. This is precisely what fundamental rights aim to prevent within the nation-state. Yet in a transnational context, the content and scope of these rights are ill-defined. While the existing legal frameworks substantially increase the degree of discretion for State or EU authorities, they simultaneously decrease legal certainty as to the applicable fundamental rights in criminal proceedings.

Michiel Luchtman, Iro Karagianni and Koen Bovend’Eerdt  perform a legal comparative analysis of how fundamental rights are integrated into the legal frameworks for ECB/SSM, respectively OLAF. Together with other colleagues from Utrecht Law School and beyond, they have also conducted related research into this topic, funded by the European Commission (here, here and here).

Recent projects and activities

Shared enforcement but separated controls in the EU

In 2016-2020, Miroslava (Mira) Scholten conducted a research project ‘Shared enforcement but separated controls in the EU – how to make it work for democracy and the rule of law?’ (veni project funded by the Dutch Scientific Council (NWO)). A number of additional related projects were run by Mira under the umbrella of this project with the aim of finding relevant controls for shared enforcement tasks, which led to numerous events and publications, including ‘Controlling EU Agencies’, edited with prof. Alex Brenninkmeijer, and a EJRR special issue on institutional innovations in enforcement in the EU, edited with dr. Federica Cacciatore.

Law Enforcement by EU Authorities

In December 2017, we successfully concluded a project which is the first to put the proliferation of EU enforcement authorities on the map. It resulted in an edited volume ‘Law Enforcement by EU Authorities’ (EE) written by 30 international scholars.

In 2016-2018, we conducted two projects for the Anti-Fraud Office of the European Union (OLAF), ‘hercule funding scheme’ of the European Commission:

Investigatory powers and procedural safeguards: Improving OLAF’s legislative framework through a comparison with other EU law enforcement authorities (ECN/ESMA/ECB);

Exchange of information with EU and national enforcement authorities: Improving OLAF’s legislative framework through a comparison with other EU authorities.

Past events