International Organization


Paths to Compliance: Enforcement, Management, and the European Union

Jonas Tallberg


The contemporary debate on compliance has been framed in terms of two contending perspectives on how best to make states comply with international rules: enforcement or management. Whereas enforcement theorists stress a coercive strategy of monitoring and sanctions, management theorists embrace a problem-solving approach based on capacity building, rule interpretation, and transparency. In this article, I challenge the conception that enforcement and management are competing strategies for achieving compliance. Based on the case of the European Union (EU) and a comparison with other international regimes, I suggest that enforcement and management mechanisms are most effective when combined. The twinning of cooperative and coercive instruments in a “management-enforcement ladder” makes the EU highly successful in combating violations, thus reducing non-compliance to a temporal phenomenon. An examination of regimes in the areas of trade, environment, and human rights lends additional support to this proposition; compliance systems that offer both forms of mechanism are particularly effective in securing rule conformance, whereas systems that only rely on one of the strategies suffer in identifiable ways.

Jonas Tallberg is Research Fellow at the Department of Political Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden. He can be reached at