Cross compliance has been introduced in the EU partly to improve compliance with pre-existing EU legislation in the Member States. Considerable effort has been put into implementing this instrument and the corresponding control systems. This presents an opportunity to assess factors for an efficient enforcement of standards and discuss these with regard to cross compliance. The paper characterizes the enforcement system connected with cross compliance in the EU and implications of interactions with the national control systems for specialized legislation. Economic theories on mechanisms and the behavior, which form the basis of controls, are applied to cross compliance in order to draw conclusions on the implementation of controls and sanctions. The potential contribution of cross compliance to an efficient enforcement of mandatory standards is critically discussed. In view of the insecure future of direct payments any further development of cross compliance within the EU should aim at increasing the effectiveness of the enforcement of legal standards and strengthen national specialized control systems in the long term.