Delegation of Power and Agency Losses in EU Trade Politics
This paper addresses the problem of agency losses (agency shirking and agency slippage) in the process of power delegation in EU trade policy. The central question is whether a conflictual situation exists between the interests of the member states and those of the European Commission (agency shirking), or whether the structure of delegation in itself stimulates the agent to adopt a different position from the principals (agency slippage). Drawing on the principal-agent approach, I argue that agency losses are due to the structure of delegation and that the existence of multiple principals with diverging preferences facilitates agency. I find empirical evidence that the Council-Commission relationship on trade politics has different dynamics depending on the negotiating stage. In the initial negotiating stage, when defining the negotiating mandate of the Commission, the relationship is cooperative. Conflict between the Commission and the Council only breaks out in a latter stage of negotiations, when the Commission makes concessions at the international level.
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