EU agencies: what is common and what is distinctive compared with national-level public agencies

Dario Barbieri, Edoardo Ongaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The number and relevance of EU agencies have rapidly increased over the years: EU agencies nowadays constitute an important part of the EU institutional landscape. The article investigates the EU agencies through categories of analysis well established in studies of public management focused on the phenomenon of agencies at the country level: structural disaggregation, autonomy, and contractualization. It emerges that EU agencies are relatively homogeneous, an aspect that differentiates European agencies from the highly heterogeneous world of national-level agencies. The main features of the EU agencies are examined, the `European type' of agency is identified and defined, and the way the EU agency model differs from country-level agencies is analysed. Research agendas on the reform of the European Union might benefit from systematic investigation of EU agencies: theoretical frameworks drawn from the public management field can provide a significant contribution in this respect. Points for practitioners EU agencies are no longer `residual' organizations: they are a significant component of the functioning of the EU system and policy networks. By investigating the features of such agencies through the conceptual lenses of public management, and through comparison with the (much more investigated) national-level agencies, the article provides an outline of EU agencies in terms of structural relations with the other EU institutions, autonomy, and modalities of steering and control. Reforms of the EU through the establishment or revamping of agencies could benefit from the systematic consideration of such features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-420
JournalInternational Review of Administrative Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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