chapter  7
13 Pages

Delegation to the permanent representation and mechanisms of accountability


The core subject of this chapter is national delegation: more precisely, the pattern displayed by different EU member states when the national administration delegates powers to its permanent representation (PR) in Brussels. The link between the two levels is important to study, as it constitutes a critical case of delegation. This delegation goes beyond that expressed by the English term delegated legislation, or the German concept of Rechtsverordungen, or what is referred to as rule-making in American administrative law, i.e. the ‘exercise of lawmaking power delegated by the legislature to administrative agencies to create supplementary norms that fill in the details of the generally worded provisions of statutes’ (Shapiro 2002: 14). Indeed, bureaucrats serving at the permanent representation are delegated the power to shape the very statutes (and thus the core norms) of EU legislation; and since EU law has supremacy over national law, it follows that EU law-making is even more salient than ‘the creation of supplementary norms’. In the case of Sweden, Jonas Tallberg (2001: 55) points to the permanent representation as a potential source of challenges to the government’s autonomy in the making of EU policy: ‘The government’s control over its own EU policy could also be challenged by those who represent the member state in Brussels – the national permanent representation’. Neil Nugent (1999: 475) argues it is important to increase our understanding of the ways in which member states partake in EU decision-making processes (and ultimately determine the outcome of European integration) ‘ … because there are significant variations in the ways in which governments attempt to control, and do control, their input into the Council via their representatives’. Not only, Nugent (1999: 477) argues, do governments have their own ways of coordinating their EU policies; it is also the case that the coordination and control of EU policies has become more and more complicated. This greater difficulty in managing EU issues is caused not only by the escalating numbers of decisions taken by the EU, but also by the sheer increase in the pace at which policy is shaped in Brussels. This also affects the scope of EU coordinating efforts at the domestic level, since an increasing number of ministries are involved. My aim in this chapter is to describe, analyse, and compare the delegation

and accountability designs characterising different national governments and

linked to and the agents for this specific act of delegation. These accountability mechanisms help alleviate the hazards of delegation. If we are to gain a deeper understanding of the process of delegation to national bureaucrats at the European level, it is essential to describe and assess these mechanisms. They involve contract design, institutional checks, screening and selection mechanisms, and monitoring and reporting requirements. To what extent are such mechanisms present in the case at hand? In what way do different accountability and delegation designs contribute to the efficient functioning of delegation between national capitals on the one hand and Brussels on the other? How do existing accountability mechanisms and patterns of delegation to the EU appear from a democratic perspective? This chapter is based heavily on an earlier research project (Larue 2006),

which was an explorative and descriptive (Yin 2003) comparative case study of two EU member states: France and Sweden. While that study did not draw on the traditional comparative method (cf. Ragin 1987), it can still be used in order to distil general inferences into the workings of accountability. For further details on methodological aspects and case selection, the reader is referred to my thesis (Larue 2006: 63-85).