chapter  6
The European Union’s role in the G8: a principal–agent perspective
ByArne Niemann, Judith Huigens
Pages 23

For nearly 35 years, the world’s most powerful state leaders have gathered each summer to discuss a variety of global issues. Originally set up to create a new regime of collective management of the international system, the summit was borne out of the frustration world leaders had with the inefficiency and slow decision-making of the traditional international institutions (e.g., Bayne 1992). Upon its establishment in 1975, it was therefore agreed that the Western Economic Summit was to remain an informal, flexible group, refraining from institutionalization and remaining without a standing bureaucracy, staff or infrastructure (Donnelly 2007: 93). Since 1977, two years after the first summit in Rambouillet, the EU/EC has been officially represented in the G8 framework. To speak in principal-agent (PA) terms, one could say that the European Community (EC) member states, as principals, conditionally granted authority to the European Commission and the Council Presidency,1

the agents, to act on behalf of the principals. However, the case of the EU in the G8 constitutes an unusual case for EU studies. PA relationships in the

EU context tend to be characterized by high levels of legalization and formalization (cf. Meunier 2000; Pollack 2006; Tallberg 2002), which is not the case here. In fact, while it was decided in 1977 that the European Commission and Council Presidency were to join the G8 negotiations, this decision was highly controversial and never formalized by granting a mandate or any (other) formal powers. Through the compromise that was ultimately decided upon the agents were allowed to participate at the summit, but were not to replace or eliminate the four existing EU G8 members.