In their efforts to categorize the growing body of agencies operating at EU level, influential commentators on the state of the Union have of late noted a veritable ‘agency fever’ (Busuioc et al. 2012; Egeberg and Trondal 2017), or an exponential rise in the creation of ‘non-majoritarian’ (Majone 1996, 1997) governance structures within the European Union. This development raises a series of queries, which will be tackled in this contribution, not the least of which is the issue of whether, in its increasingly politicized use of the agency vehicle, the European Union is placing an impossible stress on agency actors.
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Identified first by Richard B. Stewart, the ‘transmission belt model of administration’ is a historical one denoting the direct transfer of power from the citizenry to the political executive to the technical administration, whereby the latter is constrained to follow the political will. As Strauss has also noted, since the 1970 this model has experienced a fundamental shift within the US, where the recognition of the burgeoning of the regulatory state has led to a pluralization of political process, whereby administrative action can be subjected to post-legislative political challenge, at least to the degree that procedural law allows for the challenge to substantive agency action in practice. For an updated review of his work (Stewart 2005).
For the evolution of the US APA as a means to pluralise democracy or allow for post-legislative challenge of agency acts (Shapiro 1996).
Regulation 2016/1624 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2016 on the European Border and Coast Guard and amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Regulation (EC) No. 863/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC, OJ 2016 L251/1.
Regulation (EU) 2016/794 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) and replacing and repealing Council Decisions 2009/371/JHA, 2009/934/JHA, 2009/935/JHA, 2009/936/JHA and 2009/968/JHA, OJ 2016 L135/53.
This excludes the three agencies set up in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy, the executive agencies and other agency-like bodies.
In view of the Court’s liberal attitude towards the ‘borrowing’ of EU institutions by Member States when implementing an international agreement outside the EU legal framework (De Witte and Beukers 2013).
Article 263 TFEU moreover permits that the founding regulation of agencies lay down specific conditions and arrangements concerning actions brought by natural or legal persons against acts of these bodies, offices or agencies intended to produce legal effects in relation to them. The relevant Articles are: failure to act: Article 265 TFEU, preliminary rulings: Article 267 TFEU and plea of illegality: Article 277 TFEU.
See already the Court’s rulings in Case T-411/06 Sogelma—Societá generale lavori manutenzioni appalti Srl v European Agency for Reconstruction (AER), ECLI:EU:T:2008:419 and Case T-70/05 Evropaiki Dynamiki v. EMSA, ECLI:EU:T:2010:55.
Article 15(1) and (3) TFEU.
Article 16(2) TFEU.
Article 24 TFEU.
Article 298 TFEU.
As Richard Stewart has famously demonstrated, the US Administrative Procedures Act has also become a mechanism whereby legislative programmes may be challenged during the course of their implementation.
I.e. after the adoption and before the entry into force of the Commission act.
Case 270/12, supra, para 79.
Case 270/12, supra, para 82.
Case 270/12, supra, para 83.
Case 270/12, supra, para 86.
Cases 9/56 and 10/56, Meroni v. High Authority [1957–1958] ECLI:EU:C:1958:7.
Joined Cases C-154/04 and C-155/04, Alliance for Natural Health and Others  ECLI:EU:C:2005:449, para 90.
Case 270/12, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland v European Parliament and Council of the European Union  ECLI:EU:C:2014:18.
European Parliament and Council Regulation (236/2012 on short selling and certain aspects of credit default swaps, OJ 2012 L86/1.
Case 270/12, supra, para 43.
Case 270/12, supra, para 45.
Case 270/12, supra, para 54.
Case 270/12, supra, paras 65 and 66.
Article 10, Regulation 1093/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council, establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Banking Authority), amending Decision No. 716/2009/EC and repealing Commission Decision 2009/78/EU, as lastly amended by Reg. 2018/1717, L. 2911/2018.
Article 10 (1) of Regulation 1093/2010.
See, for example, Article 53 of Regulation 178/2002.
Case T-187/06 was upheld by the Court in C-38/09  ECLI:EU:C:2010:196. See also C-281/10 P, PepsiCo v. Grupo Promer Mon Graphic SA  ECLI:EU:C:2011:679, where the Court admitted that ‘the General Court may afford OHIM some latitude, in particular where OHIM is called upon to perform highly technical assessments, and restrict itself, in terms of the scope of its review of the Board of Appeal’s decisions in industrial design matters, to an examination of manifest errors of assessment’ (para 67). This wording was repeated in Joined cases C-101, 102/11 P Neuman and Galdeano v. José Manuel Baena Grupo SA  ECLI:EU:C:2012:641 (para 41). In case C-534/10 P, Brookfield New Zealand v CVPO and Schniga GmbH  ECLI:EU:C:2012:813, the Court emphasised the broad discretion of the CVPO in the carrying out of its functions (para 50). In Case T-145/08 Atlas Transport v OHIM  ECLI:EU:T:2011:213, the General Court viewed that the discretion of the Board of Appeal to suspend proceedings or not to, is a broad discretion and confirmed that is such cases of broad discretion the Court carries out only a limited review (paras 69–70).
See Arts 42 (Board of Supervisors), 46 (Management Board), 49 (Chairperson), and 52 (Director) of the Founding Regulations of the Supervisory Authorities (Regulation 1093/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council, EBA, OJ 2010 L 331/12; Regulation 1094/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council, EIOPA, OJ 2010 L 331/48; and Regulation 1095/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council, ESMA, OJ 2010 L 331/84).
These practices were rigorously condemned by the European Parliament who was unwilling to give a budgetary discharge to agencies like EMA and EFSA in view of problems of the independence of their experts and staff. See Report on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Union Agencies for the financial year 2010: performance, financial management and control of European Union Agencies, 2011/2232(DEC), Committee on Budgetary ControlA7-0103/2012.
Control in this context denotes a situation where a principal has power over the delegate and covers a wide range of instruments employed by the principal to direct, steer and influence the behaviour and decision-making of the agent or delegate. Accountability refers to ex post control, to ascertain whether the agent or delegate has carried out its tasks correctly.
It must be emphasised that this system is about acts of agencies’ management boards and is not concerned with acts that are adopted by other organs (scientific committees) of the agencies giving scientific advice to the EU institutions.
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Everson, M., Vos, E. (2021). EU Agencies and the Politicized Administration. In: Pollak, J., Slominski, P. (eds) The Role of EU Agencies in the Eurozone and Migration Crisis. European Administrative Governance. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51383-2_2
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