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

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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.

    Research areas

  • European Union, principal-agent, rational anticipation, Commission discretion, trade agreements, INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP, TRANSATLANTIC TRADE, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, EU, NEGOTIATIONS, AGREEMENTS, DELEGATION, AGENCY, POLICY, INDEPENDENCE
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-370
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Issue number2
Early online date31 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019