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On Bureaucratic Centre Formation. Lessons from the European Commission


  • Jarle Trondal


Identifying and explaining bureaucratic centre formation within government institutions – such as the European Commission (Commission) – is essential for understanding political order and the potential and limitations for public sector governance. Benefitting from a new body of interview data this article adds two key observations: First, bureaucratic centre formation in the Commission does not profoundly penetrate the Commission as a whole. Comparing officials from the Secretariat General and DG Trade, this study suggests that bureaucratic centre formation is primarily happening within the Secretariat General and only marginally penetrating DG Trade. Two behavioural logics tend to co-exist within the Commission administration, albeit embedded and layered within different organisational sub-units. Variation in bureaucratic centre formation is associated with two key variables: (i) the accumulation of relevant organisational capacities at the bureaucratic centre, and (ii) the vertical and horizontal specialisation of the Commission administration. Thirdly, these findings hold when ‘controlling for’ recent managerial reforms inside the Commission. The article illustrates that despite recent Commission reforms, some core behavioural logics among Commission officials are not profoundly transformed.

Suggested Citation

  • Jarle Trondal, 2012. "On Bureaucratic Centre Formation. Lessons from the European Commission," ARENA Working Papers p0327, ARENA.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:arenax:p0327

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