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EU Agencies And Contested Epistemic Authority: Comparing The European Medicines Agency, European Aviation Safety Authority And European Environment Agency

Friday September 23, 2016, at 14:00
Room 24.120 - Mercè Rodoreda Building (1st Floor)
Research seminar

The idea of creating a ‘second’ and ‘third’ wave of EU agencies was to increase the legitimacy of EU level decisions, via the institutionalization of particular forms of expert authorities. EU agencies are certainly staffed by a range of very competent scientific professionals. However, the mere presence of scientific expertise does not guarantee legitimacy via ‘epistemic’ means. Rather, as this paper argues, the legitimacy of agencies is contested and developed across differentiated spheres, encompassing. Moreover, their legitimacy is not give, but contested by multiple audiences. To date, research has not examined this interaction in depth. Adopting a conceptual framework of political legitimacy, the paper hence compares how three agencies with different kinds of tasks (the EMA, EASA and EEA) have worked across three dimensions of legitimacy in the quest to achieve legitimacy: cognitive, moral and pragmatic. Utilising this framework enables, for the first time, a dynamic analysis of how EU agencies interact with and respond to their political environment. Methodologically, the paper draws on systematic data collection of European Parliamentary questions, news reports and legal challenges in the ECJ. This is analysed alongside developments in stakeholder communication policies to show how agencies with differing tasks (social regulation, economic regulation, and information/coordination) manage relationships with their stakeholders by appealing to different forms of legitimacy. The analysis shows greater sustained contestation of legitimacy in the social sphere (EMA), and more significant legitimacy crises in the economic sphere (EASA). In the informational sphere, there is neither sustained contestation, nor ‘crises’ per se, but rather an ongoing struggle to achieve recognition and acceptance within a crowded world of information actors (EEA). The paper is important because it provides critical evidence on the challenges facing EU agencies as political actors in a broader context of EU ‘legitimation crisis’.

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