- Relations between the european commission and the council secretariat : the administrative complex of european governance introduction
Recherches récentes Mes recherches
The question this article seeks to address is : How do the Commission and the Council Secretariat manage a relationship that is faced with fundamental structural tension ? This tension is embodied by the treaty which, on the one hand, pitches the two institutions against one another – one as the promoter of the common European interest and the other, as part of the Council, as protector of member state interests. On the other hand, the treaty also requires the two institutions to work together in a range of areas and demands the achievement of coherence (or consistency) across policies managed jointly (Tietje, 1997).
2 By and large, the wider perception of the relationship between the two institutions, beyond the formal treaty provisions, has emphasised the conflictual potential rather than the co-operative nature of this relationship. While the Commission is seen as the embodiment of the Community spirit, and as such as a key supranational force in the Union, the latter is generally regarded as an expression of, and guardian of, intergovernmental modes of decision-making. At a time at which the Commission appears distinctly weak in its institutional evolution  See, for example, the recent intervention of Jacques Delors...
suite, and at which the Council Secretariat is coming into its own as a distinct actor in EU politics, there is much focus on potential or actual rivalry between the two institutions.
3 This is particularly so in the area of the EU’s external relations since the coming into force of the Amsterdam Treaty and the appointment of Javier Solana as the Secretary-General of the Council Secretariat and the High Representative for the Union’s CFSP. These changes have provided the Council Secretariat (as well as the Union) with a greater degree of actorness in the foreign policy field (Bretherton and Vogler, 1998), but have also encroached on the Commission’s role in the field of external relations and external representation of the Union (Smith, 1994).
4 In response to these structural tensions, and to the resultant perceptions of rivalry between the two institutions – and between External Relations Commissioner Patten and High Representative Solana in particular – there have been calls for a merger of the two posts into a single EU foreign policy portfolio. Commission President Romano Prodi has made it known that in his view, the merged job – even Solana himself – belonged in the Commission and not in the Council Secretariat. He is the main advocate of fusion. In a speech in Paris in May 2001, constituting his contribution to the debate on the ‘Future of Europe’, Prodi re-stated this vision clearly :
6 Implicit in such a statement is the other side of the coin : a perception of rivalry between the two institutions and ineffective and fragmented policymaking in the absence of the merger of these functions. The Prodi perspective provides a binary choice between, on the one hand, the fusion of executive functions in the European Commission and, on the other hand, institutional rivalry and lack of coherence and consistency.
7 At Nice, however, the treaty arrangements in this respect were confirmed. The future evolution of the EU’s CFSP and ESDP structures means that institutional adaptation will need to continue on either side. A difficult relationship is therefore here to stay for the foreseeable future, which also means that there is a need for academic analysis which moves beyond the simplistic dichotomy of rivalry and fusion between two institutions. This article provides an empirical analysis of Commission-Council Secretariat relations across a number of areas which are regarded as key arenas of institutional interaction. By way of conclusion, it offers some tentative ideas about the nature of this inter-institutional relationship.
8 Looking at the institutional evolution of both the Commission and the Council Secretariat, we can see that even though the Commission has gone through a period of decline and the Council Secretariat has witnessed a rapid rise to institutional prominence during the late 1990s, both institutions have similar problems with internal fragmentation and are currently undergoing far-reaching administrative reforms. What is quite striking, therefore, is the similarity between the two institutions, given the general perception of structural difference between them to which we referred at the outset.
9 Commission and Council Secretariat co-operate on a regular basis in routine first pillar policy-making in the preparation and in the running of the multitude of meetings within the Council structure. Both institutions share an interest in the smooth operation of the policy-process. An effective management of EU affairs can be expected to heighten the problem-solving capacity of the European level and will therefore assist the legitimacy of EU institutions. Both the Commission and the Council Secretariat have therefore much to gain from the successful passage of a directive, and to lose from a failure. Clearly, no agreement in the Council is a guarantee of effective policy-making, but on the whole a perception of purposeful action is seen to be more desirable than one of inactivity.
10 In terms of the substance of policy-proposals the Commission and the Council Secretariat may, on occasion, have different interests, but beyond such differences both will be united by a common desire to influence dynamics in the meetings of Council working groups to achieve the required consensus or majority, as the case may be. The search for compromise in the Council requires efforts at mediation which involve both the Commission and the Council Secretariat in different ways. Both institutions have representatives in any meeting held under the Council’s rules of procedure, i.e. from working groups and COREPER to the actual meetings of ministers. This, in itself, establishes a continuous presence by Commission officials in the proceedings of the Council and thereby ensures regular interaction with Council Secretariat staff.
11 The significance of Commission intervention at the decision-making stage in the policy-process, when proposals have formally left the Commission and are under deliberation in Council and European Parliament (EP), depends both on the policy-area and the decision-making mechanism applicable in any given case. If decisions are to be taken by the co-decision procedure, for example, the Commission’s leverage is enhanced by its opportunity to change the proposal in the course of proceedings, in order to adapt it to the emergence of a relevant majority in the Council. Further co-operation between Commission and Council Secretariat (as well as Presidency and EP) is called for in the context of the trialogue – the getting together of the three institutions in order to search for compromise once legislation has reached the conciliation phase of the co-decision procedure. In different circumstances, however, the role of the Commission may well be less prominent.
12 In any case, the influence the Commission can have in this process in mediating among different member state positions can be amplified by the Council Secretariat. The Council Secretariat, as explained above, has a role to play here too, but this will depend to a large extent on the readiness of the Presidency to rely on the services and the advice of the Council Secretariat. Different Presidencies handle this relationship in different ways. It is common practice, however, for a working relationship between all three parties – Presidency, Commission and Council Secretariat – to develop. This working relationship can extend to the detailed preparation of meetings, including the exchange of information regarding different national positions in the items on the agenda and agreement on strategies to overcome opposition from one or several member state delegations.
13 As far as the Commission and Council Secretariat are concerned, co-operation in such situations can amount to a division of labour. The Commission’s contribution is of a more high profile nature, a more formal search for common ground among member states, with the result of the exercise finding its way into the formal proposal. Once proposals have reached the Council, the Commission’s room for manoeuvre is limited, in part because it will feel bound by the fact that it has adopted its own institutional position on the issue in the College of Commissioners. At this stage, Council Secretariat staff (as well as the Presidency) can take over mediation efforts in a more subtle way, via the running of the meetings, the drafting of minutes and position papers and the provision of legal advice. To the extent to which such strategies have been agreed in advance of any meeting, such a ‘division of labour’ between the Commission and the Council Secretariat can be highly effective, playing to the strengths of either institution.
14 As is evident, such a modus operandi relies only to a very minimal degree on formal rules of procedure or on treaty provisions. It really depends on personal contacts between the relevant DGs in the Commission and the Council Secretariat, and the extent to which the personalities on either side are willing and able to work together. As has been argued, institutional dynamics point towards co-operation between officials from the Commission and the Council Secretariat, and only in rare cases will there be formal impediments to such co-operation. Yet whether it actually takes place depends on the specific actors concerned, and it is here that individual officials can make a difference for the better as well as for the worse. In any case, the emphasis on co-operation between the Commission and the Council Secretariat in the routine policy-process is on informal contacts and, in a wider sense, the presence of networks which cross the institutional divide.
15 The EU’s treaty reform process is, of course, distinct from routine, daytoday policy-making. Yet there are also a number of parallels which extend to the co-operation between the Commission, Council Secretariat and Presidency in the search for consensus among member state positions in the course of an IGC. In fact, to mention these three institutions in the context of Intergovernmental Conference may strike some as odd, but the participation of supranational institutions in the process of treaty reform is becoming increasingly recognised, thanks also to contributions from the actual participants in the proceedings (Dinan, 2000; Petite, 2000; Gray and Stubb, forthcoming; Christiansen and Joergensen, 1998, Christiansen, 2001).
16 Obviously, the Commission is in a fundamentally altered position here, given that it does not posses the monopoly of initiative familiar to routine policy-making. Indeed, its participation in meetings is less of a right and more of an established practice. The Council Secretariat, on the other hand, is more empowered here than it may be in normal decision-making given that its staff, and the legal service in particular, will be closely familiar with the subject-matter under discussion. Subject to the arrangement found with the Presidency, the Council Secretariat – acting as the Conference Secretariat – may have an influential role in the drafting of the treaty (Gray and Stubb, forthcoming; Stubb, 1997).
17 There is a greater propensity for issues under discussion in an IGC to have a divisive effect on Commission-Council Secretariat relations, since treaty changes are more likely to affect the institutional balance than secondary legislation does. This may constitute a barrier to co-operation, but there are still areas which constitute positive-sum games for the two institutions, and where both can benefit from the exchange of information about the likelihood of agreement being reached among member states, and the way of securing such agreement.
18 Interestingly, the Council Secretariat’s role is not necessarily weakened when treaty reform, or indeed constitutional reform, is conducted not through an IGC but through the so-called ‘convention method’. The convening of a convention, as was done for the drafting of the European Charter at Human Rights signed as Nice together with the revised treaty, provides the first example of the EU resorting to this alternative from of instituting change. While the European Charter has not been formally elevated to the status of primary EU law, there is much debate now concerning the adoption of a variant of this method in the run-up to the 2004 IGC.
19 The Fundamental Rights Charter convention consisted of 62 members : one representative from each of the member states and from the European Commission, sixteen MEPs and 2 members from each of the national parliaments. Its basic working method was described as ‘openness’ – involving observers from the Council of Europe, public hearings and an explicit desire to consult civil society and non-state actors in the drafting of the convention. It is ironic, however, that despite this explicit departure from the secretive negotiating in the course of an IGC, there seems nevertheless to have been ample scope for officials from the Council Secretariat – who were acting as the Convention Secretariat – to influence the proceedings through the usual mechanisms (participation in the drafting process, provision of legal advice, etc.). (de Burca, 2000).
20 In terms of the dynamics of IGCs, two aspects deserve specific emphasis here. First, the legal nature of the subject matter places legal advice in an even more privileged position than it is in routine policy-making. Given the rotation among countries holding the Presidency, the permanency of Council Secretariat’s and, to a lesser extent, the Commission’s legal service occupy a rather central position in the proceedings of an IGC. Second, the Commission, while not possessing a vote – and therefore no veto over any final outcome of the IGC – is nevertheless more than just a by-stander. The Commission’s opinion may have an integrative effect on the course of negotiations. In particular, the Presidency, in searching for a compromise solution, will be keen to have the Commission on side. A Presidency proposal which has support from the Commission has much greater legitimacy, and therefore chances of success, than one opposed by the Commission.
21 Despite the very different legal and political circumstances, the dynamic here may therefore be quite similar to the need for extensive, informal co-operation between Presidency, Commission and Council Secretariat in routine policy-making. The main proviso here is that there may be more numerous exceptions to this in areas where the institutional interests of Commission and Council Secretariat come into conflict. One such example – the institutionalisation of CFSP – has already been touched upon above and will be discussed in a little more detail below.
22 Whereas in the legislative process and in the treaty reform process Commission and Council Secretariat have distinct responsibilities which lend themselves to informal co-operation and division of labour arrangements, the situation is rather different in the area of external relations. Here there is much greater propensity for the two institutions to develop a competitive approach given the overlap in responsibilities. Given the institutional dynamics involved in this area, the achievement of the treaty demand for coherence or consistency has been a growing concern (Tietje, 1997; Duke, 1999). Within each institution coherence has grown in the past few years : in the case of the Commission, through the merger of a number of DG’s into a single external relations DG, the appointment of a single External Relations Commissioner and the creation of a EuropeAid Office as the ‘one stop shop’ to the disbursement of EU financial assistance abroad; in the case of the Council, though the merger of the former EPC Secretariat with the Council Secretariat, the incorporation of the CFSP working groups and policy unit into the Council structure and, when completed, the absorption of the West European Union (WEU) institutions into the Council. However, just as within each institution there is now greater scope for the achievement of coherence, the potential for competition, rivalry or conflict between the institutions has grown.
23 The treaty provides no clear division of competences, and there has been much debate about the potential for rivalry and conflict between the two institutions – and the two individuals Patten and Solana. Certainly, sensitivities and suspicions are detectable on either side. In the Council Secretariat, there is a perception that the Commission is defensive about the potential loss of influence in external relations as the Council Secretariat builds up its institutional strength in this respect. On the Commission’s side, concerns are being voiced about the dangers of duplication of tasks and expertise.
24 As has been elaborated above, Solana’s appointment and the changes in the Council Secretariat that went with it have ruffled feathers in the Council Secretariat as well as in the Commission. However, with Nice having come and gone without any change in these arrangements, there is a greater sense of acceptance of the new structures and a willingness to make them work. A co-operative attitude has prevailed, both at the political level where Patten and Solana have struck up a collegial working relationship and at the official level where consultation and co-operation across institutional boundaries have become common place.
25 Commission-Council Secretariat co-operation here has some formal aspects, but is on the whole a question of informal contacts and ad hoc meetings to address specific issues. Given the nature of the policy-area, co-operation is to a large extent problem-driven rather than process-driven, and has been most intensive in cases of crisis, in particular with respect to EU policy on the Balkans. Either side professes a recognition of mutual dependence between the institutions. The Commission acknowledges the formal competence of the Council Secretariat and the value of its direct links to member states’ foreign ministries – a link that is strengthened by a significant proportion of Council Secretariat officials in the CFSP area being seconded national diplomats. The Commission also appears to have given in to demands from the Council Secretariat that Solana be accorded a senior status in the diplomatic protocol to Commissioner Patten, even though this breaks with past inter-service convention.
26 The Council Secretariat, on the other hand, clearly accepts the expertise and the resources the Commission possesses in the area of external relations. The Commission controls the key instruments in gathering information and projecting EU influence abroad. The network of delegations across the globe, providing the Commission with direct information about the conditions ‘on the ground’(Bruter, 1999), are recognised as valuable by the Council Secretariat.  An agreement among member states, Council Secretariat and...
suite Most importantly, there is a recognition in the Council Secretariat of its own lack of resources and the Commission’s relative wealth of them. Effective external action of the Union requires the use of instruments such as financial or technical assistance, humanitarian aid or economic sanctions. The Commission’s role in the control of access to them has lead to a recognition in the Council Secretariat of the desirability of involving the Commission in the planning and deliberation of integrated crisis management responses in the future.
27 Among the formal mechanisms of Commission-Council Secretariat co-operation is the membership of representatives from both institutions in the new Troika created by the Amsterdam Treaty (and consisting also of a Presidency representative). The Troika is an instrument of external representation – it constitutes a joint EU delegation abroad and is, as such, not intended to provide a forum for internal EU co-operation. However, the Troika provides a regular meeting place for Commission and Council Secretariat and the preparation of any foreign mission of the Troika will therefore offer opportunities for policy-co-ordination between the two institutions.
28 The second and arguably more regular and comprehensive contact between Commission and Council Secretariat is the Commission’s membership in Council working groups, much like in the first pillar. This includes the Political Committee and the new Political and Security Committee. The Commission’s role here will be different from that in the first pillar working groups as it lacks the monopoly of initiative in this context. But the Commission’s participation allows for a two-way exchange of information and as such assists the co-operation between the two institutions.
29 A sensitive point here seems to have been the extension of such co-operation into the military field, in particular given the opposition of some member states to the inclusion of the Commission in meetings of the new EU military committee. Due to these tensions the Commission has not, as yet, participated in any meeting of EUMC, but reserves the right to do so if its participation is called for in view of the specific agenda for individual meeting. But this seems more of a transitional problem as new military structures are being created. However, there is no doubt on either side that, in the medium to long-term, the Commission’s participation in EU crisis response planning and execution is not only desirable but essential.
30 Finally, among the formal mechanisms of co-operation is the mutual secondment of officials between the Commission’s DG EX and the Council’s Policy Unit. This affects only a limited number of officials and is regarded with some scepticism on either side, given the detrimental impact that secondment has on the prospects for promotion and compliance with staff regulations. Nevertheless, to the extent to which it is practised, secondment adds a valuable channel of communication between the two institutions.
31 This observation leads to the recognition of informal networks stretching across the institutional divide. Just as in other policy-areas, these are prominent in this area, and officials working in a specific area of CFSP will be in daily telephone and email contact with their counterparts in the Commission. Again, such contacts may be suffering from personality clashes, or may benefit from the chemistry among the officials involved. In general, though, they tend to be an effective means of overcoming the formal distance between the institutions and the difficult hierarchies involved on either side.
32 By way of conclusion of this section we can say that the Commission-Council Secretariat relationship has not been without its problems, something that was to be expected given the radical nature of the changes introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam. On the whole, though, institutions and officials have coped comparatively well with the tensions built into the formal arrangements. A number of channels of communication have been opened up on different levels, and they provide scope for the regular exchange of information and the preparation of joint action in case of crisis. But personal contacts rather than formal structures constitute the backbone of inter-institutional co-operation, particularly when the Commission and the Council Secretariat are required to react collectively and quickly to a crisis situation in the area of foreign policy.
33 Indeed, given the joint responsibility for external relations, it is remarkable how limited the formal structures of policy-co-ordination between the Commission and the Council Secretariat are, placing high demands on officials to network informally. At the highest level, this state of affairs has turned the spotlight on the personal relationship between Patten and Solana, highlighting the fact that the two are very different personalities who have, despite differences in political beliefs and in style, developed a professional and collegial relationship that has not witnessed any major crisis that would have spelt ‘incoherent EU foreign policy’ to the outside world. In any case, on the basis of the information discussed here, the relationship between Patten and Solana, as with the one between the Commission and the Council Secretariat in general, does not seem so problematic as to warrant the call from Commission President Prodi to merge the two jobs by creating a Commission Vice-President for foreign affairs – a demand that not only seems utopian in the context of current institutional developments, but may also have been counter-productive in provoking a hostile reaction from the Council Secretariat (as well as from the member states).
34 So far, the story has been one of a structurally determined tension between two institutions which appears to have been managed rather well, and even to have been overcome by the policy-makers involved. Officials have been developing collegial approaches to their work in areas of shared responsibility, and have overcome the lack of formal structures of co-operation and co-ordination by resorting to informal networking. At this stage in the analysis, the Commission-Council Secretariat relationship appears as if rational action by individual agents pursuing their common interests has succeeded in overcoming severe structural constraints. The remainder of this section will seek to argue that this is not the full story of Commission-Council Secretariat relations.
35 Individual action has the potential to overcome structural differences between the two institutions. One only need to imagine the kind of politics which would have been generated if the posts of either Patten or Solana, or both, had been filled with less agreeable and accommodating individuals. In the ambivalent context of Commission-Council Secretariat relations, in which institutional and constitutional rules point in the direction of both co-operation and conflict, individuals have much scope to emphasise one or the other in their approach to mutual interaction. At the micro-level of institutional analysis – at the level of individual actors and their response to the institutional environment – it is therefore quite appropriate to argue in terms of individual action.
36 It is a different question, though, whether such co-operative action by individuals is to be regarded as rational action. In the empirical analysis presented above, we have seen that across rather different institutional logics co-operative behaviour wins out over conflictual behaviour. In specific cases the argument can be, and has been, made that co-operation is due to interest maximisation on the part of individuals. Nevertheless, the degree of co-operation between two different institutions across a range of different tasks and policies seems to suggest that explanation needs to be found in the social context in which individual action takes place rather than simply to rely on the efforts and goodwill of individuals. In other words, we may, after all, want to return to structural explanations rather than individual action in order to explain the co-operative nature of Commission-Council Secretariat relations.
37 The explanation advanced here in order to address the puzzle of structural tension overcome by individual action is one based on the presence of a deeper structure of beliefs and ideas which serves to bridge the institutional divide between the Commission and the Council Secretariat. Three concepts are advanced here in support of this argument that an ideational structure facilitates co-operation between the Commission and the Council Secretariat : first, a shared allegiance as civil servants of the EU, second, a experience in working within a common bureaucratic culture and, third, the presence of an epistemic community of experts in the highly technical matter of EU policy-making.
38 The point about a shared allegiance to the European project needs to be prefaced with an observation about the nature of identity-construction. This concerns the recognition that individuals carry multiple identities, with different identities mobilised in different social contexts. In the EU context, the presence of multiple identities can help explain the occurrence of internal fragmentation in an institution like the European Commission where many officials may identify more with their unit or DG than with the Commission as a whole. At the same time, it has also been shown that the presence of national identities remains significant for Commission officials and other EU policy-makers.
39 However, the allegiance can also be applied to a community of policymakers which goes beyond the institutional boundaries of the European Commission. This is what is suggested here : that officials working in Brussels may identify as EU officials as well as Commission or Council Secretariat officials, and that a common allegiance to the EU may override the more narrow institutional identity that separates them. They are, to put it simply, EU officials rather than only Commission or Council Secretariat officials, and as such share a perception (as well as a formal obligation) of working towards the common European interest.
40 Among the reasons for the development of a shared allegiance among Commission and Council Secretariat staff are their participation in very similar daily routines in Brussels and the presence of technical and legal expertise on important matters of EU politics in both institutions. The former, which could be termed the ‘Brusselsisation’ of EU officials, refers to the common experience of working in a multi-lingual, multi-national working environment of an international institutions. Staff in both institutions are aware of the turbulences of politics in the member states and spend much of their time assessing the potential for agreement among diverse national positions. Yet, despite the considerable politicisation of European public administration, EU officials are also somewhat insulated from its consequences, working in the relative autonomy of formally independent institutions. At a more practical level, EU officials have to pass similar entry requirements and concours and are governed by the same staff regulations. The same of course also applies to the employees of other EU institutions and agencies, but the presence of a wider membership to the community of EU officials does not deny its effects in overcoming institutional divisions between the Commission and the Council Secretariat.
41 Another argument, which is specific to these two institutions, concerns their shared expertise in certain EU matters. This may not apply to all areas of their work, but to some which – it can be argued – are important to their institutional self-perception (and therefore to the generation of a sense of shared allegiance). This concerns, in particular, the knowledge of the rules and procedures of EU decision-making, ranging from policy-making in the first pillar to the modalities of treaty reform in IGCs. In contrast to the substantive issues involved – on which the expertise of other actors in the policy-process is probably greater – both Commission and Council Secretariat, as managers of the process, will have unrivalled knowledge not only of the technicalities of the process of decision-making, but also of the origins of the rules governing this process.
42 Much of this is due to the presence of legal expertise in both Commission and Council Secretariat. The legal and procedural know-how present in the legal services of Commission and Council Secretariat is matched only by that of the European Court of Justice. But, unlike the ECJ, the two legal services are involved on a daily basis in policy-deliberations and in the provision of policy advice to their respective institutions, and to national governments. Despite what may be expected given their different institutional embeddedness, the legal advice issued by the two services tends to be identical. Indeed, they are perceived to be so similar in their outlook and approach that among the staff of the two institutions they are known as ‘the cousins’. It is on this basis that the legal services of the Commission and the Council Secretariat can be argued to constitute an epistemic community stretching across the institutional divide. They not only share a technical expertise in the area of the rules and regulations relating to the procedural aspects of European integration – both with respect to primary and secondary law-making – but also share the values of promoting the common interest, strengthening the institutional framework of the European Union and, above all, of maintaining the rule of law as a guiding principle of the integration process. That is why the legal services of the Commission and the Council Secretariat can be regarded as part of an epistemic community of the ‘guardians of the treaty’. There is no doubt that, within this community, there will be differences, in particular when respective institutional interests are at stake. But acknowledging such differences does not diminish the existence – and the analytical significance – of an epistemic community with shared values based on commonly-held knowledge and expertise.
43 The effects of this ‘Brusselsisation’ – the exposure to similar work (and life) routines – and membership in such an epistemic community contribute to the generation of an allegiance to the EU and to the integration project. This shared allegiance, and the resultant promotion of a common identity as EU officials – in opposition to the partisan identities of Commission and Council Secretariat – provide the environment in which co-operative action by individual actors can take place. The structural tension of different EU institutions sharing tasks is therefore managed not purely on the basis of individual action but also on the basis of common ideational structures linking the two institutions.
44 This article started off with statements about the potential for policyfragmentation and rivalry and the demands for a fusion of the EU executive functions in its institutional architecture. In the light of the analysis above we have to conclude, first, that recent institutional developments in the EU indeed demand more rather than less co-operation between the Commission and the Council Secretariat and, second, that latent competition or conflict between the two institutions is being counterbalanced by the presence of ideational structures bridging the institutional divide and facilitating co-operation among EU officials. While other aspects of the EU’s institutional development may be moving down a recognisable path of constitutionalisation – and thereby introducing established principles of constitutional theory – ther is little sign that the principle of a separation of powers will enhance our understanding of the relationship between the European Commission and the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers. Instead, the two institutions, despite their obvious differences in size, purpose and powers, jointly constitute a ‘Eurocratic complex’ managing important aspects of the EU’s legislative process and of its external relations.
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[ 1] This is an abridged version of a paper first presented at the workshop ‘The Political Logic of the European Commission’, European Consortium of Political Research, Joint Session of Workshops, Grenoble, 2001. I am grateful for comments and suggestions from the participants of the workshop participants. A substantially revised and extended version of this paper is published as Christiansen (2001).
[ 2] See, for example, the recent intervention of Jacques Delors (European Voice, 2001) alleging that the Commission is the victim of a “plot” by member states seeking to bypass the community method.
[ 3] An agreement among member states, Council Secretariat and Commission to provide the policy unit with regular despatches from national embassies or, in the case of the Commission, delegations has been fully implemented only by the Commission – a state of affairs which may skew the Council Secretariat’s appreciation of the significance of delegations.
Whereas the European Commission has long been regarded as the EU’s executive, the Council Secretariat has in recent years acquired siginificant executive powers of its own, in particular in the realm of EU foreign policy. In response to this development, there have been concerns about administrative fragmentation and rivalry and calls for the merger of the executive functions of the two institutions. Against this background, the article charts the relations between the Commission and the Council Secretariat across a range of shared tasks. It concludes that, despite an underlying tension induced by the provisions of the treaty, inter-institutional relations are largely co-operative. It provides a tentative explanation based on the expansion of EU institutions, the growing interconnectedness of EU policy-processes and the strengthening of a ‘supra-institutional’allegiance amongst EU officials.
Thomas Christiansen « Relations between the european commission and the council secretariat : the administrative complex of european governance introduction », Politique européenne 1/2002 (n° 5), p. 11-24.
URL : www.cairn.info/revue-politique-europeenne-2002-1-page-11.htm.