The College of Commissioners: Executive Politics as Usual?

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


There are many images out there, among scholars as well as in political life, of how the European Commission (Commission) actually works. Some authors have portrayed it as being permeated by national interests at all levels (Kassim and Wright 1991; Peterson 1999; Menon 2003). Others emphasize that although commissioners’ nationality certainly may have an impact on their preferences on some occasions, for the most part, commissioners approach and undertake their duties and tasks in an impartial manner (Nugent 2001: 115). Most authors, however, do not make an assessment of the relative weight assigned to national interests, Commission interests, portfolio interests or party political concerns in the College of Commissioners (Coombes 1970; Donnelly and Ritchie 1994; Ross 1995; Cini 1996; Page 1997; Hooghe 2001; Peterson 2002; Smith 2003; Peterson 2004). Thus, the College seems, in several respects, to be a ‘black box’ in the scholarly literature. This becomes even more evident when it is compared with other key EU institutions. Much more empirical information is available on how the Union Council and the European Parliament actually work. Studies of these institutions have revealed that while contestation along national lines seems to prevail in the Council (Thomson et al. 2004), politics in the Parliament reflects mainly a left—right dimension (Hix 2001).


Decision Behaviour Role Behaviour Union Council Administrative Policy Informal Norm 
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© Morten Egeberg 2006

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  • Morten Egeberg

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