Delegation, Agency, and Agenda Setting in the European Union

Mark A. Pollack

in The Engines of European Integration

Published in print March 2003 | ISBN: 9780199251179
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600111 | DOI:
 Delegation, Agency, and Agenda Setting in the European Union

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Principal‐agent theories of delegation generate specific, testable hypotheses about delegation to supranational organizations in the European Union, including: the specific functions delegated to such agents; the conditions under which member‐state principals delegate greater or lesser discretion to their agents; and the conditions under which supranational organizations such as the Commission are able to pursue their distinct preferences, within the limits of their statutory discretion. Such principal‐agent analyses, drawn from rational choice theory and transaction‐costs approaches, represent a parsimonious and internally consistent approach to the study of delegation; however, a competing approach, derived from sociological institutionalism, generates strikingly different predictions. This book examines both the delegation stage (at which member‐state principals create supranational organizations, delegate powers to them and establish control mechanisms to limit their discretion) and the subsequent behaviour of supranational agents in the day‐to‐day conduct of their executive, judicial and legislative powers. Although causally related, these two stages raise very different methodological challenges, and thus the two parts of the book utilize distinct research designs and methods to answer the questions posed in each.

Keywords: agenda setting; delegation; discretion; European Union; principal‐agent model; rational choice theory; sociological institutionalism; supranational organizations; transaction costs

Chapter.  22139 words. 

Subjects: European Union

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