Avoiding the Inappropriate: The European Commission and Sanctions under the Stability and Growth Pact

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Avoiding the Inappropriate: The European Commission and Sanctions under the Stability and Growth Pact


  • Martin Sacher Institute of Political Science, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg


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Abstract:  Fiscal policy surveillance, including the possibility to impose financial sanctions, has been an important feature of Economic and Monetary Union since its inception. With the reform of fiscal rules in the aftermath of the financial and sovereign debt crisis, coercive provisions have been made stricter and the Commission has formally gained power vis-à-vis the Council. Nevertheless, sanctions under the Stability and Growth Pact for budgetary non-compliance have so far not been imposed. This article asks why the Commission has until now refrained from proposing such sanctions. Using minimalist process-tracing methods, three post-crisis cases in which the imposition of fines was possible, are analysed. Applying an adaptation of normative institutionalism, it is argued that the mechanism entitled “normative-strategic minimum enforcement” provides an explanation of why no sanctions are imposed in the cases studied: Given that the Commission does not perceive punitive action as appropriate, it strategically refrains from applying the enforcement provisions to their full extent.

Keywords:  European Commission; fiscal policy coordination; fiscal surveillance; logic of appropriateness; process-tracing; sanctions; Stability and Growth Pact

Published:   27 May 2021


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v9i2.3891


© Martin Sacher. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.