The Engines of European Integration: Delegation, Agency, and Agenda Setting in the EU

By Mark A. Pollack | Go to book overview

Chapter 4 The European Parliament as an Outlier: Delegation of Legislative Power in the European Union

Thus far in this study, I have demonstrated that the patterns of delegation and discretion allocated to the European Commission and the Court of Justice fit closely with the predictions of principal-agent analysis. As we have seen, both the Commission and the Court have been delegated functions that are neatly covered under the four categories of monitoring compliance, filling in the details of incomplete contracts, promulgating detailed regulations, and, in the case of the Commission, setting the legislative agenda for the member governments in the Council. In terms of discretion, we have seen that the member governments have, in both primary and secondary legislation, systematically adopted administrative and oversight mechanisms to limit the discretion of both the Commission and the Court. Finally, we have seen that member governments have generally delegated greater discretion to the Court than to the Commission, while calibrating the discretion of the latter across both functions and issue areas.

In this chapter, I extend the analysis beyond the Commission and the Court to the European Parliament. The fundamental argument of the chapter is that, while EU member governments have delegated an ever-expanding set of supervisory, budgetary, and legislative powers to the Parliament though successive treaty amendments, those powers are generally a poor fit with the functions predicted by principal-agent analysis, with the exception of the Parliament's function of overseeing the Commission. Furthermore, the pattern of legislative powers delegated to the Parliament across 35 different issue areas differs starkly from the pattern of agenda-setting powers delegated to the Commission, again suggesting distinct motivations

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