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Bureaucratic Autonomy in a Multi-Level Institutional System: The Case of EU Agencies

Thursday December 1, 2011, from 14:00 to 16:00
Room Fred Halliday - IBEI (1st floor)
Research seminar
Arndt Wonka (Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences)

Agencies at the EU level are a fairly recent organizational innovation in the EU’s multi-level institutional system and their number and fields of activity have been considerably growing during the last decade. These agencies are established to facilitate information exchange among EU- and member state institutions as well as with private actors during the preparation and formulation of EU policies and to support the effective implementation of EU policies. The resulting cross-level, cross-territorial and multi-actor networks complicate the identification of the degree to which EU agencies can act autonomously and, more interestingly given the complexity of the politico-institutional setting in which they are embedded, from whom exactly EU agencies are (not) “autonomous”. A number of studies have investigated EU agencies’ relative independence by analyzing the formal-institutional rules which govern these agencies and formally tie them to other organizations. This paper takes a different perspective. Agencies’ autonomy is assessed relationally by analyzing the relative influence which the diverse actors that are part of the networks in which EU agencies are embedded are able to exert on agencies’ staff. In the empirical analysis potential differences in the autonomy of agencies operating in different policy areas and enjoying varying degrees of formal-institutional independence will be explored. The paper draws on survey data about the influence on their daily work which staff in nine EU agencies perceives to be exerted by a diverse set of actors.


Seminar IBEI Wonka