Comparative European Politics

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 455–475

Reforming EU economic governance: A view from (and on) the principal-agent approach

  • Dermot Hodson
Original Article

DOI: 10.1057/cep.2008.46

Cite this article as:
Hodson, D. Comp Eur Polit (2009) 7: 455. doi:10.1057/cep.2008.46


This paper asks what European Union (EU) economic governance can learn from the principal-agent approach and vice versa. The answer to the first part of this question is that a stylized relationship between the Council of Ministers for Economic and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN) acting as a collective principal and the Member States acting as multiple agents can shed light on factors that may have influenced the design, breakdown and subsequent reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the Lisbon Strategy. The answer to the second part is that applying principal-agent analysis to EU economic governance illustrates many of the advantages and limitations of this heuristic device. On the plus side, it shows that principal-agent analysis can be used to understand new modes of EU governance as well as traditional forms of supranational policy making. On the minus side, the sheer applicability of this approach raises methodological concerns with regard to the specification and over-determination of principal-agent relationships.


principal-agentEU economic governanceStability and Growth PactLisbon Strategy

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dermot Hodson
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Politics and Sociology, Birkbeck College, University of LondonLondonUK