Parliamentary Transposition of EU Legislation in Bulgaria and Romania

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2012
19 Pages, Grade: 1.7
Ron Böhler (Author)


1 Introduction..
2 The Roles of National Parliaments in CEE Countries
2.1 After the Breakdown: Parliaments in Times of Transition
2.2 The Bulgarian & Romanian Parliament in EU Affairs
3 Complying with EU Legislation: Theoretical Perspectives
4 The Transposition of EU Directives after EU Accession:
A Comparative Study
4.1 Methodology
4.2 Empirical Findings
4.3 Bulgaria
4.4 Romania
5 Parliamentary Transposition & Compliance with EU Law Reconsidered
6 Conclusion
7 References

1 Introduction
The transposition of EU regulations into national legislation is at the heart of the
European integration project as this step of the policy process provides for the
congruence and non-discrimination of domestic policies among European Union (EU)
member states. Compliance with supranational law shall guarantee state practice to
common standards within a Union marked by economic disequilibria and political
idiosyncracies of each country. Indeed, empirical studies have revealed that timely
transposition of EU directives vary across member countries as well as policy areas (cf.
Börzel et al. 2010; Knill and Tosun 2009). More generally, the transposition of EU law
within a fixed deadline is positively correlated to central national preferences and run
rather smoothly in issue areas of secondary importance to relevant state actors. In
countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) however it has been argued that EU
accession would lead to some kind of `compliance fatigue' once the intended goal of
EU membership has been reached (Goetz 2005).
Although this argument has not turned out to be well-founded, EU member
states do in fact differ on their transposition record and overall implementation
capacity. Some scholars have thus quite convincingly made the case for untimely and
incorrectly transposed EU legislation once national parliaments are involved in the
implementation process (Krislov et al. 1986; König and Luetgert 2008; Ciavarini Azzi
2000). As participants in policy-shaping and/or policy-taking processes of EU-related
legislation, they serve as powerful veto players and hence are seen to slow down the
policy-making and implementation process (cf. Tsebelis 1999). Notwithstanding this
conditional factor has not been sufficiently examined in CEE countries in the aftermath
of accession. This empirical gap will be closed here with a comparative study of
transposition records of EU directives in the case of Bulgaria and Romania in the years
following EU accession in 2007 in due consideration of the role the respective national
parliament has played. This is all the more interesting in the light of previous studies
indicating that parliamentary transposition of EU legislation prior to membership in
Romania for instance has led to delayed adoption in more than fifty per cent of the cases
(Bågenholm 2005, p.218). Furthermore, Bulgaria and Romania have been latecomers
in EU accession and their membership was postponed compared to other CEE countries
due to inadequate administrative and judicial capacities and `broader fears about [their]
ability to implement EU laws' (Stoykova 2007, p.255; cf. Bechev 2011, p.113). Current
debates indeed show that democratic practices particularly in Romania are repeatedly

flawed and hence burden relations to the European Commission and other member
states. But which effect does parliamentary democracy has on Romanian and Bulgarian
compliance with EU law? In order to answer this question adequately, a data set of
altogether 194 directives that had to be implemented in 2007 and 2008 in both countries
will be scrutinised with regard to timeliness in case of parliamentary as well as non-
parliamentary execution measures.
The structure of the essay is as follows: The first section will review the
academic literature on the roles that national parliaments in CEE countries have played
after the collapse of the Soviet Union with special reference to transition efforts of these
countries. Bulgaria's and Romania's cases will be further sketched out. In the second
section, the methodology for evaluating national parliament's involvement in the
transposition of EU directives will be outlined, before turning the attention to the
comparative analysis of the two case studies. The paper concludes by summarising
main findings and highlighting prospects for future research in the field.
2 The Roles of National Parliaments in CEE Countries
The end of communism in satellite states following the economic and political
breakdown of the Soviet Union marked a first external shock to national parliaments
within these countries. Suddenly, they were empowered actors in the transition of CEE
countries towards democracy and the European market economy. Still, accession to the
EU one and a half decades later was a second significant external shock to the role
parliaments would again play in national political systems. They were often seen as the
biggest `losers' of European integration (cf. O'Brennan and Raunio 2007; Maurer and
Wessels 2001). Their influence on European affairs weakened constantly with the shift
of more and more national competencies to Brussels and the steady loss of national
sovereignty. Recently however, they have seen a political revival in the European
Union governance system. Strengthened involvement of national parliaments is a
central counter measure not only to what has come to be known as a bottom-up
`democratic deficit' in European governance (Majone 1998; Moravcsik 2002). On the
downstream side of EU policy-making there has been also more and more a top-down
`transposition deficit' of EU rules (Haverland and Romeijn 2007; Lampinen and
Uusikylä 1998). Lately however, the 2009 Lisbon Treaty did not only strengthen the
rights and obligations of the European Parliament, but also national parliaments as their
counterparts on the domestic level (Abels and Eppler 2011). The following sections

will briefly introduce this ambivalent development that national parliaments in Eastern
Europe have undergone.
2.1 After the Breakdown: Parliaments in Times of Transition
Parliaments have been the pivotal element of transition in CEE countries.
Democratization was primarily induced by and dependent of a solid parliamentarization
(Ágh 2002). Within not yet consolidated political systems they constituted, as Kanev
writes with reference to the case of Bulgaria, `the main arena of the dramatic birth of
Bulgarian democracy and the key agency in the elaboration, adoption and application
of the rules of the democracy game' (2002, p.159). Parliaments have been the drivers
of change, which also put them into the position to function as inhibitors.
Having said this, national parliaments of Soviet Union successor states differed
significantly compared to their Western European counterparts, both concerning their
starting conditions as well as their role within transitional political and societal systems.
The end of communism, CEE and South Eastern Europe were confronted with the
difficult task to `play' democracy as the new and unfamiliar rule of the game. Learning
by doing was quite more easily said than put into practice. First, because the legacy of
a common soviet past has bequeathed these countries with `minimal parliaments' that
were subordinated to persisting political elites and ancestral institutions that sought to
maintain their old powers with a new livery (Kraatz and von Steinsdorff 2002, p.11).
Second, the national parliaments had to fulfil a double role between internal and
external democratisation demands. Because the parliament was staffed preponderantly
with cadres of the previous autocracy and majorities proved to be fairly unstable and
short-term, transition towards a pluralistic multiparty democracy required first of all a
democratisation of decision-making processes within the plenary and the committees
(ibid., p.10). On the downside, it was parliamentary legislation that was central to
modernise political domains and economic infrastructure beset with aftershocks of state
socialism. Olsen hence convincingly concluded: `In the absence of well-developed
executives or external political parties, the new parliaments are, by default, the critical
location within which both policy and politics are shaped in the new democracies. Yet,
the new parliaments are not prepared to take advantage of their unique opportunities.
They suffer dual liability from their dual transition of political system and statehood'
(1997, p.402). Although these starting conditions have been almost identical to most of
the countries of the former Eastern bloc, some successor states performed far better

than others, with Hungary being the frontrunner on the way to an European-like
parliamentary democracy (Ágh 1997). Romania and Bulgaria, on the other hand,
represented transitional laggards. Their historical development until accession to the
EU in 2007 will now be shortly portrayed.
2.2 The Bulgarian & Romanian Parliament in EU Affairs
Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union on 1 January 2007 ­ three years after
the enlargement wave towards Central Eastern and Southern Europe
. Both countries
slowly but surely deviated from the course to Europe that most of their neighbours had
taken since the fall of the Iron Curtain, although this was far from self-evident. Quite
the contrary, until late 2003 Romania was considered `the best-prepared country for EU
membership' in terms of its constitutional provisions (Albi 2005, p.103). Yet both
countries have similarly undergone a lengthier and more arduous transformation
process following the end of communism. In the same vein have the reasons why they
became laggards to EU accession been as alike as manifold: Most Scholars point to the
insufficient and undedicated fight against corruption and organised crime in the country
(Bechev 2011; Papadimitriou and Gateva 2009), `weak institutions and sluggish
marketisation' (Noutcheva and Bechev 2008, p.115; Phinnemore 2010), an obscure
administrative and judicial system (Hin
ea et al. 2004; Melone 1996; Hille and Knill
2006) and overall reluctant political will to reform the country towards standards of
European democracy and good governance (Papadimitriou and Phinnemore 2008,
pp.108-123). The European Commission responded to these challenges by imposing a
`mechanism for cooperation and verification for Bulgaria and Romania' that for the
first time extended EU leverage into the post-accession period and regularly monitors
in both countries work against corruption and organised crime (Vachudova
and Spendzharova 2012).
It is first of all due to these policy problems that national parliaments have
played a limited role in Bulgaria's and Romania's path to Brussels, although their
position as legislative organs within their political landscapes has been substantial
(Roth and de Nève 2002; Kanev 2002). Though strengthened in their position after
On 1 May 2004 Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland,
Slovakia and Slovenia joined the EU.
All progress reports are available online:
[accessed 03 July 2012].
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Parliamentary Transposition of EU Legislation in Bulgaria and Romania
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Ron Böhler (Author), 2012, Parliamentary Transposition of EU Legislation in Bulgaria and Romania, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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