Public Choice

, Volume 160, Issue 3–4, pp 501–519 | Cite as

Ministerial gatekeeping and parliamentary involvement in the implementation process of EU directives

  • Thomas KönigEmail author
  • Bernd Luig


According to the literature on parliamentary government, legislatures provide political parties with veto and amendment rights, which counterbalance executive power. This institutional feature is also said to help overcome ministerial “drift” within coalition governments. While this literature has focused on the situation of an unconstrained environment of parliamentary government, the European Union’s Member States continuously delegate policy competencies to Brussels, whose directives must in turn be transposed into national law to take effect. Because the minister in charge enjoys informational advantages and has the sole right to begin the process of implementing directives, he can completely control the agenda in this constrained environment. We evaluate the empirical implications of a ministerial gatekeeping model by investigating the (in)activities of 15 countries with respect to 2,756 EU directives adopted between December 1978 and November 2009. Our findings show that partisan ministerial approval is necessary to start the implementation process which conditions the counterbalancing response of parliaments. Accordingly, the delegation of policy competencies to the European Union changes the power relationship in parliamentary governments and increases the risk of partisan ministerial drift.


Parliamentary government Ministerial gatekeeping Parliamentary involvement EU directives 

JEL Classification

D72 D78 F53 N44 



Earlier drafts of this article were presented at the 69th Annual National Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago (31 March–3 April 2011), at the University of Essex in Colchester (13 March 2012), at the 2nd Annual General Conference of the European Political Science Association in Berlin (21–23 June 2012), and at the 6th Pan-European Conference on EU Politics at the University of Tampere in Finland (13–15 September 2012). We thank the participants for fruitful discussions. Furthermore, we gratefully acknowledge the valuable comments of three anonymous reviewers and the editor.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.German Research Institute for Public Administration SpeyerMZESMannheimGermany

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