Governance by committees has been a core aspect of every-day practices of the EU. Ad-hoc committees and expert groups constitute a central organisational model of linking external knowledge and policy advice to the policy processes, especially in the European Commission’s administration. Recent research has brought us closer to getting an overview of the scale and configuration of this part of EU policy making and of the overall patterns of participation in different policy fields especially. Yet, we know less about the dynamics of committee systems. In particular, we know very little about how such governing practices develop over time and how they are intertwined with the dynamics of the larger European political orders.
This paper investigates the claim of an ‘expertisation’ of EU governance, i.e. a growing authority of specialised knowledge within modern policy-making – a claim that is repeatedly being made without being thoroughly assessed over time. This paper assesses this thesis by zooming in on one particular aspect of the expert groups system – the type of groups that runs under the label ‘high level group’ (HLG) and that represent particularly prominent, high-ranking advisors in all kinds of policy fields. With new quantitative and qualitative data we analyse whether and how alleged expertisation pressures are translated into a) actual patterns of participation and b) the modes of committee governance, and how this has changed over time. We draw on a data set that overs HLGs at three points in time between 2005 and 2017 with respect to characteristics of key positions and compositions of the groups as well as formal setup and conduct rules. If expertisation pressures are translated into an ‘academisation’, we would expect an increase of academics amongst members and committee chairs. Along the same lines, the tasks of committees would be framed in a more technical than political manner and expert recruitment procedures would more and more emphasise specialisation and independence.
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