ASTK18361U From paper to practice: the implementation challenges in the European Union environmental policy

Volume 2020/2021

Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS


This course will analyze the development and challenges in the implementation of environmental policy in the European Union. The general awareness regarding environmental and climate issues has increased significantly over the last decades, which contributed to the ascension of environmental policy to the top of the European agenda. However, even though the EU is one of the main leaders of environmental politics regionally and internationally, it also faces serious challenges in terms of compliance and in the implementation of their directives by the member-states. The main goal of this course is to untangle the complexities around the implementation challenges and the emerging governance instruments such as transnational networks, the role of European agencies and the “new environmental policy instruments”.

This course will first present a broad overview of the historical developments of environmental policy in the EU in parallel to international endeavors. These dynamics will be analyzed using theoretical insights and concepts from institutionalism, multi-level governance and (public) policy implementation and performance, besides the specific literature on environmental law and policy. Then, we will look into possible factors in the national and European level that lead to the difficulties in policy implementation, the role of EU institutions in this context, and whether the existing EU mechanisms are able to mitigate implementation issues. Finally, this course ends with a reflection on the consequences of the current economic and political scenario to the pursuit of environmental policy – more specifically, the European Green Deal.

Learning Outcome


  • Assess and describe the influence of different actors and interests involved in the environmental policy-making process (e.g. national governments, the Commission, interest groups, etc.)
  • Identify the different mechanisms behind the multi-level policy-making in the EU in the context of environmental policy



  • Compare the success in implementation of the EU environmental policy throughout time
  • Select and apply the relevant theoretical frameworks to analyze the different levels of policy implementation and the challenges in policy coordination



  • Discuss the effectiveness of current European initiatives for policy compliance
  • Discuss the difficulties in the implementation of environmental policy from an EU perspective and from a broad national perspective

​Börzel, T.A., & Buzogány, A. (2019) Compliance with EU environmental law. The iceberg is melting, Environmental Politics, 28(2), 315-341, DOI: 10.1080/​09644016.2019.1549772

Bondarouk, E., & Mastenbroek, E. (2018) Reconsidering EU Compliance: Implementation performance in the field of environmental policy. Env. Pol. Gov., 28, 15– 27. doi: 10.1002/eet.1761.

Knill, C., & Liefferink, D. (2013). Environmental politics in the European Union: policy-making, implementation and patterns of multi-level governance. Manchester University Press.

Selin, H., & VanDeveer, S.D. (2015). EU Environmental Policy Making and Implementation: Changing Processes and Mixed Outcomes. [Conference Proceedings] (Submitted)

Tallberg, J. (2002). Paths to Compliance: Enforcement, Management and the European Union. International Organization, 609-43.

Wurzel, R., Zito, A., & Jordan, A. (2019). Smart (and Not-So-Smart) Mixes of New Environmental Policy Instruments. Smart Mixes For Transboundary Environmental Harm, 69-94. doi: 10.1017/​9781108653183.004

Wurzel, R. K., Connelly, J., & Liefferink, D. (Eds.). (2016). The European Union in international climate change politics: still taking a lead? (Vol. 1). Taylor & Francis.

This course will consist mainly on lectures and in-class discussions (in small groups or with the whole group), focusing more on the latter. As participation is a key component for the course, students are expected to prepare and contribute actively to the discussions based on each session’s readings.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

The last lecture is destined to giving feedback to the drafts for the final assignment (the students

will give feedback on each other’s work and I will give them individual feedback as well.)

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner