The European Union faces a problem of uneven implementation of its rules by national authorities. Agreement on common rules at the Community level does not necessarily translate into commitment to apply those rules coherently and effectively. This "implementation deficit" will worsen as new members enter the Union because the European Commission is unlikely to be able to maintain the same vigilance as guardian of the Treaties.
This study argues that effective policy application and enforcement depends on national authorities that are empowered, sufficiently independent and fully accountable. Excessive political control either by the Member States or Community institutions is counter-productive. This is because implementing authorities need to maintain a degree of autonomy and discretion to be able to respond to changing market conditions. It is for this reason that accountability instruments are indispensable. They restrain discretion without sacrificing flexibility.
This study examines the institutional arrangements in Member States and candidate countries for national regulatory authorities (NRAs) and considers how they may be made more accountable. It proposes performance appraisals and peer reviews.
Peer reviews can also be carried out at the European level. But they should be widened in order to identify best practices and national methods of problem solving. In this way, NRAs, and especially NRAs in the future Member States, will learn from each other. This learning is indispensable to counter-balance the decision-making independence of NRAs. It can stimulate a healthy competition of ideas that will contribute to regulatory convergence and consistent application of EU law without regulatory ossification and inflexibility.