Agency Governance and its Challenges to the EU System of Representation
This project consisted of two main strands of research. The first strand explored the determinants of EU agencies’ formal-institutional, i.e. statutory, independence. While most of the literature on the EU's 'agencification' addresses the conditions for agency creation and the implications of agency governance from the perspective of democratic accountability, there is a dearth of empirical research systematically scrutinizing the institutional structure and degree of formal-institutional independence of these agencies which informs both the positive and normative literature on 'agency governance'. As a result of the project, we provided a comprehensive empirical assessment and measure (index of formal-institutional independence) tapping the variation in institutional independence displayed by the full set of (at the time) 24 EU agencies. Furthermore, we presented and tested hypotheses derived from a rationalist institutionalist perspective to explain variation in the level of formal-independence among the EU agencies. In the second strand of the project, we took a step towards exploring the behavioural dimension of ‘agency governance’ by investigating the political attitudes of EU agency staff. Employing a online-questionnaire that was sent out to agency staff working in different EU agencies, we collected attitudinal data along a set of governance relevant dimensions, such as attitudes on accountability/legitimacy, economic governance and institutional centralization. One of the main findings is that while EU agency professionals strongly and almost uniformly approve of "professional" accountability, forms of "social" accountability and public approval more generally are also considered important by agency professionals. We interpret these findings as an indication that the self-understanding of EU agency professionals is rooted in strong sense of professionalism with, at the same time, an acute awareness of the political character (and impact) of their work. This self-understanding might result from agency professionals’ principled skepticism towards a purely "technocratic" notion of legitimation and accountability. Moreover, it may also reflect the conviction that efficient regulation in the heterogeneous EU context relies on the general approval of the public and of political elites.