In a statement for one regional TV channel, a current Croatian representative in the European Parliament and a candidate in the upcoming European elections Mrs Biljana Borzan, said that two thirds of laws that are voted for in the European Parliament are being implemented in the Croatian legislation. The statement raised the question what the source is for Mrs Borzan’s statement and to what extent this is or is not true.
We examined existing studies of EU legislation, documents of the European Parliament, contacted the Croatian Parliament, talked to Croatian experts on European legislation and contacted Mrs Borzan’s office in order to verify the fact in this statement. We found that the number in this statement is mostly true. However, the exact number is difficult to confirm. This numerical assessment is predominantly based on estimations of experts who emphasized that it would be very demanding for any researcher to find out the exact number. Also, the main source that Mrs Borzan mentioned in our correspondence was an analysis by a British eurosceptic campaign group on the basis of which she made a correlation between the UK and Croatia.
Mrs Biljana Borzan, a current Croatian member of the European Parliament, who is also a candidate in the upcoming European elections, said for a regional TV network N1: I hope that more Croatians will vote in the upcoming elections because two thirds (2/3) of the laws that are having an effect on Croatia’s legislation are being implemented by European Parliament. For that reason I hope that interest in the upcoming elections will be higher than 25 percent in the previous elections.
The focus of our research is to find if the 2/3 of the European laws are being implemented in the Croatian legislation. The European legislation possesses the power or the ability by which the European Union implements its regulations into the legislation system of its members. While in the process of joining in the European Union, countries must sign a contract in which they allow the implementation of European laws in their legislation system. Regulations bring changes in different aspects of citizens’ lives and for that reason it is very important to consider this topic as a relevant one.
First we contacted Mrs Biljana Borzan via email to check the source for her statement. Mrs Borzan quickly justifies it by a research conducted by so-called Business for Britain, a eurosceptic campaign group in the UK founded in year 2013 by five hundred UK business leaders. This study is unavailable in the pdf at the time of our research but its main points are available on the website Talk Business. According to the analysis, EU rules account for 65 percent of UK laws. This research contains the same statistics Mrs Borzan stated, but the difference is that the research is based on the United Kingdom’s legislation and not on Croatia’s legislation. When asked why she thinks findings on British legislation could apply to Croatia, she says in her email: “This research is relevant for the Republic of Croatia given that these two members of the European Union are not a part of the Eurozone or the Schengen zone.”
Each country has its own legislation system regulated by their own criteria and each system is differently conceived. It is difficult to assess to what extent the legislation system of the United Kingdom and Croatia legislation system is comparable because the implementation of European regulations is different for every national legislative system. It is important to note that these statistics were often misused by the Eurosceptics in the UK to prove that decisions about their citizens are made elsewhere, without acknowledging that directives need to be implemented by the British government in the best way they see fit.
Mrs Tamara Ćapeta, an experienced professor at the Department of Public European Law at University of Zagreb says that all EU member states are comparable if you look at how many national policies are tied with European law. She says that probably the main reason Borzan quoted the mentioned research is the fact that “there probably aren’t any other relevant statistics to cite.”
Regarding the main question, Professor Ćapeta says it is certainly true that a large number of EU countries’ regulations have a European origin. The exact percentage can vary depending on the regulatory culture in each country. In countries that have a lot of legislative norms even without the EU, the percentage is lower than in the countries with less national regulation. She says that the exact number is difficult to find out for each country and that this would demand a very through research effort, but that two thirds “may be close to the truth”. EU regulations (a binding legislative act that has to be fully implemented throughout the European Union) and directives (a legislative act that sets out the goal that all states must achieve but each state decides independently on finding a way how to achieve it) are ways in which European laws come into legislation systems of its members. Professor Ćapeta explains that EU regulations are directly incorporated into the legislation system, while directives and implementation of some founding contracts require their incorporation into national laws and not straight into the legislation system.
We contacted the Croatian Parliament in order to find out how many Croatian laws based on European directives have been adopted since the country became an EU member in year 2013. Mrs Tatjana Briški from the Office for International and European Affairs at the Croatian Parliament shared statistics for three years:
- In year 2015, 128 laws have been voted for in the Croatian Parliament, out of which 41 of them were based on EU directives
- In year 2017, 125 laws have been voted for, out of which 50 of them were based on EU directives
- In year 2018, out od 238 laws, 71 were based on EU directives
This does not include the mentioned EU regulations that require no legislative activity in the Croatian Parliament, but are applied directly (national transposition). Therefore, it is difficult to measure the exact number. We tried to examine EUR-lex statistics in hope we would find more information, however there was no data available that would help us make clear conclusions without hiring legal and research experts to conduct a serious and lengthy study.
To get an additional expert opinion, we spoke to Hrvoje Špehar, political science professor on the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb whose research interests are focussed on the European Union. According to Špehar, well-known professors whose work concerns the EU’s political system, like S. Hicks and W. Wessels say that more than 50% of the European laws are being implemented into the member’s legislation system. Špehar also said that the impact of European laws on EU member countries’ laws is difficult to measure and it would demand complicated and thorough research of legal experts, unique for each member state. He pointed out that national regulations are not the same by their importance and size and that they cannot be changed in the same way by the imposed European regulations. Špehar also commented that making such a correlation between the UK and Croatia is almost irrelevant, as the number of regulations that concern the Eurozone and the Schengen area is not as high to significantly change the amount of EU legislature in each country.
In this blog article, Professor Annette Elisabeth Toeller assessed current research on the Europeanization of public policies and makes many of the points mentioned by the experts we interviewed. She said that looking for these numbers should be done carefully as “all they can do is give us a first, very rough idea of the scope of the European impact on national legislation. Figures make only sense as long as they are differentiated between policy fields.”
On the one hand, the exact number of two thirds cannot be confirmed, however, according to all the experts we spoke to, it is close to the truth as more than 50 percent of Croatian legislation derives from the European regulations and laws. It is important to emphasize that the fact checking of this statement and the exact number would involve a serious research endeavor that is beyond our skills and expertise. Also, as all of our expert interviewees highlighted, this is a very complicated matter because of the nature of EU legislature and then the nature of each EU member country’s legislative system. The impact of EU law is different for each sector.
On the other hand, the research Mrs Borzan quoted is questionable for two reasons. One is that it is not clear to what extent this research is statistically relevant. Second is that the comparison between the legislation systems of Croatia and the UK is an assumption that would also demand a serious and lengthy comparative research inquiry.
To conclude, the current Croatian member of the European Parliament Biljana Borzan made a correlation that is based on an assumption. Even though experts who we interviewed assess that the figures could closely match the extent to which EU laws and regulations affect Croatia’s national legislature, this would demand a lengthy and serious study beyond our expertise.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE: Ivan Kuzela and Michaela Orehovec