IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Anatomy of Autonomy: Reassessing the Autonomy of the European Commission

  • Jarle Trondal
Registered author(s):

    The European Commission (Commission) occupies a pivotal role as the key executive institution of the European Union (EU). Yet, the factual autonomy of the Commission remains largely unexplored, contributing to contradictory assessments of it. The ambition of this study is to reassess the behavioural autonomy of the European Commission (Commission), as well as organisational conditions thereof. To accomplish this, this paper utilizes one under-researched laboratory of the Commission: temporary officials (SNEs). It is argued that SNEs may serve as a crucial test-bed of Commission autonomy due to SNEs’ ambiguous affiliation towards the Commission. Whereas past studies claims that SNEs have a predominant intergovernmental behavioural pattern, this study demonstrates that the SNEs foremost blend departmental, epistemic and supranational behavioural dynamics, thereby safeguarding their behavioural autonomy. It is also argued that to understand Commission autonomy, the organisational anatomy of the Commission organisation has to be carefully considered. The organisational anatomy is measured by considering the following four independent variables: (i) the organisational composition of the Commission services, (ii) organisational incompatibilities across levels of governance, (iii) recruitment procedures of Commission officials through a so-called “submarine” approach, and (iv) socialisation dynamics inside the Commission. The study demonstrates that the autonomy of the Commission is organisationally contingent and not only subject to what Lipsky (1980:19) calls actors’ conspicuous desire for autonomy. One implication of our findings is that Commission autonomy is sensitive to reforms of the Commission apparatus. A later version of this paper was published in European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 57 (2008), pp. 467-488

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    File Function: Full text
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by ARENA in its series ARENA Working Papers with number 4.

    in new window

    Date of creation: 13 Mar 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:erp:arenax:p0240
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:erp:arenax:p0240. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sindre Eikrem Hervig)

    The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask Sindre Eikrem Hervig to update the entry or send us the correct address

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.