Of Principal(s’) Interest? A Disaggregated, Multiple Principals’ Approach to Commission Discretion

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Authors Markus Gastinger, Johan Adriaensen
Paper Category
Paper Abstract How much discretion does the Commission enjoy in the European Union? To address this question, we draw on principal–agent theory and propose ‘interest in a decision’ by principals as a proxy for agent discretion. This has three advantages over existing approaches. First, it overcomes the high‐conflict bias of case studies. Second, it accounts for the phenomenon of rational anticipation. Third, it allows for a more fine‐grained measurement than analyses of the act of delegation. Empirically, we disaggregate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) into 27 chapters and account for multiple principals. We use surveys and interviews with Commission negotiators, which we triangulate with publicly available data sources. Our findings paint a picture of a Commission that is constrained rather tightly. While the Council follows all chapters and acts as a ‘safety net’, citizens and the European Parliament act as fire alarms and focus on selected, often overlapping, chapters.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R

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