EU agencies and the European multi-level administrative system

Edoardo Ongaro, Dario Barbieri, Nicola Bellé, Paolo Fedele

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose The chapter furnishes empirical evidence about the extent and profiles of autonomy of EU agencies, the modalities whereby they are steered and controlled, and the interactions they have in EU policy networks. It thus provides the bases for a more complete picture of the EU multi-level administration. Methodology/approach The research is a survey-based design. A questionnaire was administered between July 2009 and April 2010 to 30 EU agencies included in the study population. The questionnaire was sent to the executive director of all the agencies included in the study. Questions were closed-ended, either in the form of multiple choices – with one answer or with check-all-that-apply and an option for ‘other’ to be filled – or in scale format. The resulting data set included ratio, interval, ordinal, and nominal scales. The reference model employed for the investigation relies on the analytical model developed within the framework of the research project COST Action IS0651 CRIPO (Comparative Research into Current Trends in Public Sector Organization – see also ‘Acknowledgements’) for the study of public agencies in Europe (Verhoest, Van Thiel, Bouckaert, & Lægreid, 2012). Findings EU agencies display a rather low level of managerial, especially financial, autonomy; conversely, they enjoy relatively high policy autonomy. As to the way in which multiple ‘parent’ administration steer EU agencies, it emerges a composite picture, in which the crossroads of steering and control by the parent administrations and accountability by the agency lies in the executive director. In terms of interactions within policy networks, EU agencies interact in a significant way with the European Commission, with national-level agencies in the pertinent policy field, and with specific technical bodies where they are part of the configuration of the policy sector, whilst interactions with national ministries as well as with other EU agencies are rare. No single model can capture in full the overall features of EU agencies, although the ‘community level institution’ model seems to capture a number of the profiles of these agencies. Research implications Both the literature on EU multi-level administration and research agendas in public management can benefit from inclusion of – and in-depth empirical knowledge about – EU agencies. The chapter provides important empirical evidence to these purposes. Practical/social implications EU agencies are actors in European public policy-making, albeit to a varied extent depending on the sector. The extent of autonomy and the way in which they are held to account are crucial aspects for an enhanced understanding of their influence on European public policy-making, as is their location in European policy networks. Originality/value Research presented in this chapter is the first systematic empirical investigation of EU agencies encompassing networking, steering and control and autonomy of EU agencies, based on primary data.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMulti-Level Governance: The Missing Linkages (Critical Perspectives on International Public Sector Management)
EditorsEdoardo Ongaro
Place of PublicationBingley
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd
ISBN (Print)9781784418748
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameCritical Perspectives on International Public Sector Management


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