Political And Interest Group Ties In European Agencies
The growth of ‘the regulatory state’ (characterised by privatisation, liberalisation, and deregulation) has resulted in the creation of different types of non-elected and specialised bodies which carry out executive powers (such as central banks or regulatory agencies). The creation of European agencies (EAs) stems from the so-called ‘credible commitment’ problem. According to some scholars, EAs were created as independent bodies in order to enhance the credibility of the EU decision-making process. From this point of view, the existence of EAs would be a product of their level of expertise and independence from the political arena. In general, current literature distinguishes between EA autonomy from two types of actors: independence from politicians and from the actors subject to regulation. However, most scholars have focused on the analysis of agencies’ institutional independence from the political sphere; that is to say, independence from their political principals. What is missing in the literature is an analysis of EAs’ independence not only from politicians, but also from their regulatees.
Based on the idea that socialisation processes help to cast light on ties/connections with specific groups, this article examines the careers of current board members/top-level civil servants of EAs, aiming to identify their links with politicians (such as national governments or national political parties) and specific interest groups (such as business associations, firms, NGOs, professional associations or trade unions). This article also aims to examine whether appointment rules lead to the election of board members with particular links to interest groups and/or politicians. The analysis of the relationship between high-ranking posts and interest groups/politicians would allow us to understand to what extent EAs are de facto independent (‘credible’) and expert (‘technocratically legitimate’). The assessment of political and interest group ties is based on an original dataset on the career trajectories of current board members of EAs.