Arndt Wonka
Technocratic and independent? The appointment of European Commissioners and its policy implications

Journal of European Public Policy, 2007: 14, Heft 2, S. 171-191
ISSN: 1350-1763

A considerable number of theories such as neo-functionalism and neo-institutionalism consider the European Commission a central actor in European Union (EU) politics. Yet, our theoretical understanding of the Commission is still limited. By taking recourse to principal-agent theory, this article argues that the European Commission should be considered neither a technocratic nor an overly independent actor in EU politics. The paper's theoretical focus is on member states' incentives to nominate and appoint particular types of European Commissioners and its likely effects on the Commission's policy preferences. The dataset used to test the theoretical claims was generated by the author for this purpose. It contains the theoretically relevant information on all European Commissioners appointed between 1958 and the present (N = 215) as well as relevant attributes of the nominating governments. I suggest that the Commission should be considered a political rather than a technocratic actor with close political ties to EU member states.