Verticalization of Enforcement


Law enforcement has long been regarded an exclusive competence of the EU Member States.  This has changed in the past years, partly because of major international crises. A number of EU authorities belonging to different policy areas have been given direct enforcement tasks, i.e., monitoring markets and economic actors, investigating alleged infringements of EU law and even punishing for those infringements. Well-known examples in the areas of competition law and fisheries have recently been supplemented by developments in financial supervision. Perhaps the most controversial of them all is the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, whose establishment is currently under negotiation.

The rise of EU law enforcement authorities and the transfer of tasks and powers to the EU level raises important scientific and societal questions. The design of the legal and institutional framework of these authorities and their new tasks is a largely unexplored area of academic research. Law enforcement has always been embedded in the context of the nation-state. Yet, recent cases in the area of criminal law and migration law illustrate how diverging national fundamental right standards may, for instance, hamper effective transnational law enforcement cooperation. Races to the bottom of the lowest denominator of rights and remedies, the ‘laundering of evidence’, and forum shopping by authorities and individuals have already been reported. Rule of law standards, such as the protection of fundamental rights, and public accountability for the performance of law enforcement policies, therefore urgently need translation from the national to the EU setting. 

It does not come as a surprise that these developments have caused an intense public and academic debate. National parliaments, for instance, were very concerned with the proposal for a European Public Prosecutor in November 2013 and issued a so-called ‘yellow card’, which required reconsideration of the initial proposal. Legal practice is also struggling with the incorporation of rule of law standards in a transnational setting. The ‘vet’ project aims to contribute to the ongoing debate by investigating the ‘verticalisation of enforcement’ development through a number of collective projects and research of individual staff members.

Michiel Luchtman and Mira Scholten coordinate this project.

Image sources:  European Union Newsroom and the European Parliament



7 December 2017 – Dr. Miroslava Scholten and Prof. Michiel Luchtman presented their edited volume ‘Law Enforcement by EU Authorities’ at the European Parliament, Brussels.

The event was organised with the help of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) and the discussion was chaired by Prof. Alex Brenninkmeijer (ECA’s Member, Honorary Professor at Utrecht University). After a short presentation of the book, its results and ‘vet’ project’s future plans by Mira and Michiel, Prof. Deirdre Curtin (European University Institute), Prof. Gerard C. Rowe (Viadriana University / University of Luxemburg) and Prof. John Vervaele (Utrecht University) gave their reactions on the book.

After that, Martina Dlabayovà (Member of the European Parliament) approached the trend that the book analyses from the perspective of political accountability, Dr. Jan Inghelram (Court of Justice of the European Union) discussed the possibilities and limits of judicial accountability in this area and Dr. Despina Chatzimanoli (European Banking Authority) brought in a perspective of EU agencies. An insightful discussion was followed by an official presentation of the book to the last three speakers by the editors Mira and Michiel.


29 November 2017 – Last week we followed a presentation by a RENFORCE visiting scholar, David Fernández Rojo, a PhD researcher from the School of Law at the University of Deusto, Spain. He spoke about the evolution of the operational competences and cooperation delegated to Frontex, Easo and Europol, as well as the future prospect of integrated migration, border protection and asylum administration. The dissussant for David’s presentation and paper was Dominique Barnhoorn, a Ph.D. researcher at the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance (ACELG, UvA).

24 November 2017 – together with colleagues from Maastricht University, the ‘vet’ project team has organized a panel at the annual Ius Commune conference. The focus has been on the legitimacy of the delegation of rule making and enforcement powers to public and private bodies from a constitutional viewpoint. The panel has assessed the delegation of powers from a variety of perspectives including; historical aspects, the judicial review of harmonized standards, fundamental rights in EU law, and the accountability of rule-making and enforcement authorities. The vet project was particularly glad to welcome Dr Merijn Chamon, from Ghent University, as a guest speaker. 

15 May 2017 – Mira Scholten publishes ‘Mind the trend! Enforcement of EU law has been moving to ‘Brussels’’ in the Journal of European Public Policy. The article discusses three of the EU’s direct enforcement strategies, and outlines the problem-solving potential of such enforcement strategies while acknowledging the challenges that they bring along. Mira aims to urge and facilitate further research on the EU’s (direct) enforcement strategies, their legitimacy, effectiveness and operation.

11 May 2017 – Renforce researchers conclude a comprehensive comparative report on the investigative powers of the European Anti-Fraud Service, OLAF

Under the auspices of RENFORCE, an international team of researchers has recently concluded a report on the ‘Investigatory powers and procedural safeguards: Improving OLAF’s legislative framework through a comparison with other EU law enforcement authorities‘. The project was co-funded under the Hercule III programme of the European Commission/OLAF. Headed by prof. Michiel Luchtman and prof. John Vervaele, it analyses OLAF’s legal framework for the gathering of information and evidence.

The work of the project team reveals significant deviations between the legal framework for OLAF and other EU bodies with comparable tasks (European Competition Network/ECN, the European Central Bank/ECB, and the European Securities and Markets Authority/ESMA). These differences highlight shortcomings in the OLAF legal framework, particularly when it comes to its powers of investigation, but also relating to the legal protection for the individuals concerned.

The project uses a comparative approach in which the interaction between the four authorities and their national partners in six legal orders (Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom) are analyzed. The report offers findings on each of the four EU authorities individually and in comparison, six national reports and the overall comparative analysis. The results are relevant for policymakers and legislative bodies at the EU and national level, for academics and practitioners in the area of enforcement of EU law and for training purposes.

Renforce researchers Michiel Luchtman, John Vervaele, Mira Scholten, Michele Simonato, Joske Graat and Danielle Arnold executed the project together with prof. Martin Böse and dr. Anne Schneider (both University of Bonn), prof. Peter Alldridge (Queen Mary, University of London), prof. Juliette Tricot (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Paris), prof. Silvia Allegrezza, Prof. Katalin Ligeti and Dr. Gavin Robinson (all University of Luxembourg) and dr. Celina Nowak (Kozminski University, Warsaw).

The report is related to several other Renforce projects, including the VIDI project of prof. Michiel Luchtman and the VENI project of dr. Mira Scholten, funded by the Dutch Council of Scientific Research. A second project funded under the Hercule III programme is currently running and led by dr. Michele Simonato, prof. Michiel Luchtman and prof. John Vervaele.

24 March 2017 – EU Law master students of the course ‘Capita Selecta: Enforcement by EU agencies’ have published and presented five blogs in which they discuss accountability of EU enforcement authorities. Have a look at ‘EPPO for Dummies’, ‘ECN: what happens in the worst case (allocation)?’, ‘Are the European supervisors guilty for the Germanwings-crash?’, ‘ESMA: power comes with responsibility’, and ‘Frontex+: An Institutional Odyssey’.





30 September 2016 – A combined blog for Dr. Miroslava Scholten’s ‘Shared enforcement but separated controls in the EU – how to make it work for democracy and the rule of law?’ veni project, and Prof. Dr. Michiel Luchtman’s ‘The rise of EU law enforcement authorities – Protecting fundamental rights and liberties in a transnational law enforcement area’ vidi project, was created.

1 September 2016 – The second meeting of participants of the ‘vet project’ took place. The first drafts of future chapters of an edited book on shared enforcement were discussed.


24 August 2016 – On behalf of also Martino Maggetti and Esther Versluis, Mira Scholten presented their paper on the shared enforcement and accountability at the 2016 EGPA conference.

14 July 2016 – Mira Scholten received a veni grant to conduct research ‘Shared enforcement but separated controls in the EU – how to make it work for democracy and the rule of law?’.

 7 March 2016 – EU Law master students of the course ‘Capita Selecta: Enforcement by EU agencies’ (thematically a part of the ‘vet’ project) have published three blogs in which they discuss accountability of EU enforcement authorities – the newly proposed European Border and Coast Guard, the EASA and its new proposal for revision of the regulation, and OLAF.

26 February 2016 –  The kick-off meeting of the “VET”project took place at Utrecht University.

VET Kickoff 2VET kickoff

23 February 2016 – Professor Annetje Ottow was invited to give a key note speech at the international conference on ‘Enforcement in a Europe without Borders’ organized by the Netherlands Inspection Council in the course of the Netherlands’ Presidency in the Council in the EU.

Argyro Karagianni and Miroslava Scholten also participated in this international conference.

Annetje OttowDutch Presidency




1-2 February 2016 – Marloes van Rijsbergen and Miroslava Scholten were invited to present their paper (forthcoming in the European Journal of Risk RegTARNulation) on the judicial control over the inspection power of ESMA at the first workshop of The Agency Research Network (TARN), at ARENA, Oslo, Norway.

Merijn Chamon, Martino Maggetti and Esther Versluis (external partners of the “VET” project) presented their work at this workshop too.


 2 July 2015 – Miroslava Scholten presented her paper ‘Mind the Trend! Enforcement of EU law is moving to ‘Brussels” at the International Conference on Public Policy, Milan, Italy.

1 June 2015 – Michiel Luchtman received a vidi grant to conduct research ‘Criminal law enforcement by European authorities: fundamental rights under threat?’.

January-June 2015 – Marloes van Rijsbergen carried out a traineeship at the Legal, Convergence and Enforcement Department of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) in Paris, France.

 10 November 2014 – First internal meeting of the project.


Project’s Members

RENFORCE members:

Prof. Dr. Alex Brenninkmeijer is a member of the European Court of Auditors and Professor of the rule of law’s institutional aspects, Utrecht University, the Netherlands .


Dr. Ton Duijkersloot is an Assistant Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law at the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (Renforce), Utrecht University.


Ms. Argyro Karagianni is a PhD researcher at the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (Renforce), Utrecht University.


Prof. Dr. Michiel Luchtman is Professor at the Willem Pompe Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology and the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (Renforce), Utrecht University.


Prof. Dr. Annetje Ottow is Dean and Professor of Public Economic Law at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University.


Ms. Marloes van Rijsbergen is a PhD researcher at the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (Renforce), Utrecht University.


Mr. Elmar Schmidt is a PhD researcher at the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (Renforce), Utrecht University.


Dr. Miroslava Scholten is an Assistant Professor of EU law at the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (Renforce), Utrecht University.


Prof. Dr. John Vervaele is Professor of Economic and European Criminal Law at the Willem Pompe Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology and the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (Renforce), Utrecht University.


Prof. Dr. Rob Widdershoven is Professor of European Administrative Law at the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (Renforce), Utrecht University.


Dr. Michele Simonato is an EU Criminal law researcher at the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (Renforce), Utrecht University.


Dr. András Csúri is a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University focusing on the future of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and on transnational evidence.


Mr. Koen Bovend’Eerdt is a PhD candidate for Criminal law and Criminology at the Utrecht University School of Law.


External partners:

Dr. Florentin Blanc is a Consultant – Business Inspections Reform Specialist at International Finance Corporation and the World Bank.


Dr. Federica Cacciatore is an Adjunct Professor of Policies of Administrative Simplification at the Tuscia University, Viterbo, and an advisor for administrative simplification at the Department of Public Function, Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers.


Dr. Merijn Chamon is a Post-doctoral Assistant at the Ghent European Law Institute, University of Ghent (Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence).


Dr. Florin Coman-Kund is an Assistant Professor of EU law at Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam.


Ms. Antonia Corini is a PhD researcher in food law at the Doctoral School on the Agro-Food System (Agrisystem), Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan – Piacenza, Italy.


Dr. Kati Cseres is an Associate Professor of Law at the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance (ACELG), University of Amsterdam.


Prof. Dr. Paul Craig is Professor of English Law, St John’s College Oxford.


Dr. Mariolina Eliantonio is an Associate Professor of European Administrative Law, Maastricht University.


Mr. Jonathan Foster is an English barrister holding an LL.M from University College London and a legal adviser at the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).


Ms. Emma van Gelder is an intern at the European Court of Auditors.


Mr. Floris Kets is a paralegal at Axon Lawyers Amsterdam.


Mr. Robert Kraaijeveld is a legal counsel in the Legal Services Division of the Dutch Central Bank (De Nederlandsche Bank NV).


Dr. Martino Maggetti is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Institute of Political, Historical and International Studies (IEPHI), University of Lausanne.


Prof. Dr. Bernd van der Meulen is Professor of Food Law, Wageningen University.


Ms. Giuseppa Ottimofiore is a consultant in Regulatory Delivery primarily working with the World Bank Group on enforcement and licensing assessment and reform projects – and an independent researcher in Public Law.


Ms. Annalies Outhuijse is a PhD researcher at the Department of Administrative Law, University of Groningen.


Dr. Mikołaj Ratajczyk is an officer at the European Aviation Safety Agency and the European Commission.


Prof. Dr. Esther Versluis is Professor of European Regulatory Governance at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University.


Mr. Martin Wasmeier is a Senior Expert at the Legal Service department of the European Commission.


Dr. Sabrina Wirtz is a Lecturer at the International and European Law Department of the Faculty of Law, Maastricht University.