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Public defence: Nina Merethe Vestlund

Master of Political Science Nina Merethe Vestlund at ARENA will defend her dissertation for the degree of PhD: Between Centralization and Decentralization: Decision behaviour in the EU’s multilevel administrative system.

Time and place for the trial lecture

Thursday 3 September 2015 10:15-11

Aud. 3, Eilert Sundt's house (Social Science Faculty)

Theme: The role of expertise in EU governance

Adjudication committee

  • Professor Thomas Gehring, Universtiy of Bamberg
  • Professor Michelle Cini, University of Bristol
  • Professor Åse Gornitzka, University of Oslo

Chair of the defence


  • Professor Morten Egeberg, ARENA and Department of Political Science, University of Oslo
  • Professor Jarle Trondal, ARENA, Universitety of Oslo and University of Agder


The dissertation studies decision behaviour within an emerging multilevel European Union (EU) administration composed of the European Commission (the Commission), a growing number of EU agencies as well as networks of national regulatory authorities. These actors are increasingly connected and integrated across levels of governance and national borders. There is disagreement among scholars as well as practitioners on the effects of these institutional developments, and whether they contribute to preserve executive power as decentralized among member states or if they promote centralized EU executive power.

The aim of this thesis is to contribute to a better understanding of what characterizes administrative decision-making in the EU system. It investigates to what extent, how and why organizational factors shape decision-making within and between the constitutive parts of the EU administrative system.

The thesis consists of four studies of decision behaviour within and between the Commission, EU agencies and national agencies. Three of the studies concern the pharmaceutical policy field. The first article studies administrative decision behaviour in the Commission and shows how the reorganization of the pharmaceutical unit contributed to change decision-making behaviour and relationships to external interest groups. The second and third articles explore decision-making within the frame of inter-institutional relationships between the Commission and EU agencies, and show that close EU Commission-agency connections have developed. While article two demonstrates that a close, informal hierarchy exists between the Commission’s DG in charge of consumer and health policy (DG Sanco) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), article three shows that this pattern can be found also in other policy fields. The fourth article studies intra-EU regulatory network relationships in the European Medicines Regulatory Network.

Findings show that national agencies pool resources through mutual adaptation and specialization, and that this is facilitated and reinforced by EMA’s coordination capacity. Overall, the findings of this thesis support allegations that executive decision-making behaviour at the core of the system is gradually becoming normalized, in the sense that it increasingly embodies many of the organizational and behavioural patterns that are highly typical of executives as we know them from national settings. Furthermore, the findings show that executive decision-making behaviour is gradually becoming more centralized, in the sense that it contributes to executive centre formation at the European level by strengthening the capacity of the Commission as a core executive and its ability to act relatively independently from member states. The findings of this thesis thus challenge claims that executive power is merely anchored inside member states.

Published Aug. 20, 2015 10:54 AM - Last modified Apr. 4, 2022 11:50 AM