© 2017

The Principal Agent Model and the European Union

  • Tom Delreux
  • Johan Adriaensen

Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics book series (PSEUP)

Table of contents

About this book


This book assesses the use and limitations of the principal-agent model in a context of increasingly complex political systems such as the European Union. Whilst a number of conceptual, theoretical and methodological challenges need to be addressed, the authors show that the principal-agent model can still provide deeper insights into a wide range of political phenomena. Through an empirical analysis of multiple principal-agent relations in the EU, covering a variety of policy fields and political actors, the volume refines our theoretical understanding of the politics of delegation and discretion in the EU. It will appeal to scholars in interested in EU politics and policy, public administration and governance, and international organisations. 

The chapter ‘Multiple principals preferences, different types of oversight mechanisms, and agent’s discretion in trade negotiations’ is published open access under a CC BY 4.0 license via


use and limitations of the prinicipal-agent model democratic legitimacy political accountablity EU politics European External Action Service trilogues in the European Parliament agent interaction non-exclusive delegation collective agent EU conlict resolution latent control European Council EU trade negotiations delegation and control in the EU governance decision-making

Editors and affiliations

  • Tom Delreux
    • 1
  • Johan Adriaensen
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut de sciences politiques Louvain-Europe (ISPOLE)Universite catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  2. 2.Centre for European Research in MaastrichtMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands

About the editors

Tom Delreux is Professor of EU Politics at the Institut de Sciences Politiques Louvain-Europe (ISPOLE) at the University of Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve), Belgium.

 Johan Adriaensen is Research Coordinator at the Center for European Research in Maastricht (CERiM) at Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

Bibliographic information


“This book is a tour-de-force of the European Union’s increasingly complex architecture. But studying it through the lens of the principal-agent model brings order and clarity. Delreux and Adriaensen show how the careful application of a model to an entire empirical field not only provides a map for navigating the empirical terrain, but also enables theory development. Endeavors like this advance our discipline.” (Professor Jens Blom-Hansen, Aarhus University, Denmark)         

“This important book develops the principal-agent model in new and significant directions. One of the key tools in political science emerges as a powerful and relevant model to tackle central issues for the discipline.” (Professor Mark Thatcher, London School of Economics, UK)