ARENA Working Papers
WP 97/21



An Organization Theory Perspective on Multilevel Governance in the EU: The Case of the EEA as a Form of Affiliation

Morten Egeberg and Jarle Trondal
Department of Political Science and ARENA, University of Oslo



In the EU, contending organizational principles are embedded in important institutions, and this is supposed to have consequences for how policy processes unfold at the national level. Though challenged, the sector logic of the Commission structure, and the territorial logic of the Council structure are, more or less, balancing each other. As regards the EEA countries, however, the Council structure and the interlocking dynamics across sectors that it is assumed to encourage in the member states, is relatively 'absent'. On this ground, it is argued that, as far as the relevant policy areas are concerned, the EEA countries may be more sectorally penetrated than the member states. The Norwegian data show that the legislative adaptation to the EU takes place at a broad scale, and is highly dynamic. The amount of inter-sectoral interventions at the central government level seems to be moderate, and the data indicate that such co-ordination efforts have been weakened subsequent to the 'interim period', during which the Council structure was open for Norwegian participation. However, factors that may be modifying the sectoral penetration of Norway are also discussed.

I. Introduction

There is a growing literature on the impact of EU governance on institutions and public policies in the member states (e.g. Meny et al., 1996; Olsen, 1996; Rometsch and Wessels, 1996). This paper deals with policy-implications of EU-governance for the European Economic Area (EEA) country Norway. Although not having membership status, the EEA countries are, nevertheless, affiliated with the EU in very substantial ways. This agreement between the EU and EFTA (not including Switzerland), which makes the EEA countries part of the internal market, implies that internal market legislation is to be adopted by the EEA countries continuously. Cooperation also encompasses education, research, environmental protection, social policy, statistics and consumer protection. Agricultural and fisheries policies (except for veterinary affairs) are, however, excluded from the agreement. The EEA countries are to be treated like member states as far as the preparatory stages of the legislative process are concerned. Thus, EEA states are allowed to participate on expert and advisory committees in the Commission, but have no rights of participation in the Council structure. EFTA, as one of the two parties on the EEA-Joint Committee, may, however, ask to be consulted on relevant decisions in the Council.

The EEA countries, including at the time being Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, may look too exotic to deserve any general, scholarly interest. However, the dichotomy membership/non-membership has, over the last years, been replaced, or supplemented, by terms like `variable geometry' and `differentiated integration' (cf. for instance Stubb (1996)). Thus, we will suggest that the EEA as a form of affiliation is one of many alternative arrangements that deserves some scholarly attention. Knowledge about such quasi- or semi-membership forms may also attract the interest of practitioners, both from countries striving for membership, and from countries eager to relax their relationships with the Union.

Understandably, the EEA countries are normally perceived as being at the periphery of the EU. However, we will argue that, regarding those policy fields encompassed by the agreement (and those make up, after all, a considerable part of EU's `policy ground'), the non-member EEA countries are integrated to the same extent as full members are as far as policy harmonization is concerned. We will advance the hypothesis that the EEA country Norway, concerning the relevant issue areas, may be even more sectorally penetrated than EU members. Obviously, the loss of autonomy that the EU regulatory regime imposes on the country, without being compensated for by access to important parts of the decision-making structure, might lead one to such a conclusion. In this paper, however, we want to focus on an other aspect of the EEA affiliation form that may have unintended effects in this respect. The argument goes that the Commission structure, to which the Norwegian government is coupled, works according to a sectoral logic that can be derived from its main principles of organizational specialization; i.e. purpose and function. The Council structure, on the other hand, from which the Norwegian government is decoupled, is supposed to foster a geographical or territorial logic that encourages horizontal co-ordination efforts in the member states, and the formulation of national interests.1 It is argued that it is the degree of such horizontal interlocking of policy sectors at the national level in all stages of a policy process that determines the degree to which policy variation across countries can be expected to occur. Thus, a considerable part of this paper is devoted to the task of outlining an organization theory perspective on multi-level governance in the EU in general. The legal categories `supranational' and `intergovernmental' are replaced by the basic organizational principles underlying institutions.

II. Lessons from theory and multi-level governance in general

Conceptualizing the EU as a multi-level system of governance increases the body of knowledge from which experiences might be drawn, since such systems also exist at the national level. Thus, in this section, we outline some basic organizational dimensions, and show their relevance in comparable settings.

Organizational structures create action capacity in certain directions, while others tend to be ignored. The basic underlying mechanism is that of bounded rationality, which implies that not everything can be attended to at the same time (March and Simon, 1958; Simon, 1957). Thus, decision situations have to be simplified, and organization structures contribute to this simplification by focusing decision-makers' attention on certain problems and solutions. Over time, some organizations are transformed into institutions, meaning that they are infused with value "beyond the technical requirements of the task at hand" (Selznick, 1957, p. 17). Decision behaviour is here seen as driven by a logic of appropriateness; reflecting historical, symbolic and normative orders (March and Olsen, 1989).

According to Gulick (1937), different ways of specializing government organizations are supposed to shape policy-making behaviour in a rather predictable manner (Hammond, 1986). Choosing for instance `purpose' as the uppermost principle of specialization, means to foster a sectoral perspective, and to further standardization of public tasks and services across territorial units. Area specialization, on the other hand, would encourage a spatial view, meaning that public policy-making and implementation become more sensitive to territorial variations and needs for intra-local policy coherence. Thus, quite understandably, most nation states divide tasks between ministries according to the principles of purpose and function. When area based ministries are created, like the Scottish and Welsh Offices in the UK, this, arguably, reflects serious regional tensions within a nation-state (Peele, 1995). Gulick's assumptions about the policy implications of applying different principles of organizational specialization (purpose, function, area and clientele) have got some empirical support over the last years (Egeberg, 1994).

While purpose and function usually are chosen as the uppermost principles of executive specialization, the weight assigned to area or territorial units at a sub-national level varies substantially across time and space. At one extreme, governance can be mainly purpose or sector based, meaning that regional or local concerns are not adequately embedded in institutional arrangements. Inserting a `prefect' at the regional level, however, is assumed to mobilize some, but moderate, geographical bias in governance. Even if the prefect represents central government, this organizational device implies that sectoral branches of government are to some extent horizontally coupled at the regional level. That this could represent a challenge to integrating a system through policy standardization was recognized long time ago. For instance, in the Danish-Norwegian Union (1380-1814), the central government in Copenhagen for this reason consistently opposed efforts to develop a strong `prefect' administration in Norway. The integrative force of a purpose or sector based administration (after 1660) was not to be hampered (Mykland, 1977). Accordingly, modern prefects too have been observed to be spokesmen not only for the central government in their regions, but also for their regions in central government (Page, 1992).

In Norway, attempts at increased `prefectization' have been implemented recently. For instance, in 1994, a highly institutionalized sector administration, penetrating all levels of government, was organized into the `prefects'' offices. The regional parts of the agricultural administration thus became in principle subordinated to the `prefects' instead of to the Ministry of Agriculture. As could be expected, a formal reorganization of a highly institutionalized bureaucracy, in which administrative units were transferred intact, did not revolutionize decision-making processes. However, rather significant changes were observed: After the reorganization, officials reported that new patterns of interaction occurred, connecting them more tightly to other sector administrations. More weight was assigned to regional concerns and coherence, and less importance was attached to national standardization efforts (Bonesvoll, 1997).

Local self-government within unitary states, and, at the end of the continuum, federal arrangements, are of course supposed to interlock sectors even tighter, and thus to facilitate regional and local variation and identification.2 In comparison with other federal systems, the German case is unique in the sense that the constituent sub-governments (`länder' governments) are represented in the second chamber of the national legislature (the `Bundesrat') (Sbragia, 1992). This way of arranging territorial representation at the central level has its striking parallel in the Council structure of the EU. We will suggest that this kind of representation induces additional co-ordination efforts in the constituent territories in order to find out what their collective interests are, and to ensure that these are effectively communicated. We now turn to the organizational principles that are embedded in central EU institutions.

III. The Commission structure - the organizing principle(s)

Being in charge of policy initiation and formulation, as well as of policy implementation and implementation monitoring, the Commission resembles to a considerable extent the executive branch of a national government. Also, like its national counterparts, its uppermost principles of specialization are those of purpose and function (cf. the Directorates General of Transport, Energy, Administration, etc.). The relationships between the Commissioners and the DGs are not that clear-cut as between ministers and ministries, since a Commissioner can be responsible for policy areas that belong to different DGs (Page and Wouters, 1994). Nevertheless, portfolios are predominantly purpose- or function-based.

National officials, who are invited by the Commission to participate on expert and advisory committees in the preparatory stages of a policy process, are usually coming from the respective sector administrations back home. They attend as experts, and are not formally representing their governments (Cini, 1996; Docksey and Williams, 1997, p. 141). In addition, most interest group participation is also sectorally or functionally based (Andersen and Eliassen, 1997; Cini, 1996; Mazey and Richardson, 1996).

There is, however, a competing organizational principle underlying Commission arrangements. The geographical principle, or the `national connection', is apparent in several respects. To start at the apex of the organization, the College of Commissioners is comprised of persons proposed by the member governments. They are served by personal secretariats (`cabinets') that are mainly composed of compatriots of the respective commissioners (Spence, 1997). Moving on to the Commission services, the recruitment of officials is based on national quotas, although merit criteria are fundamental (Page, 1997). The phenomenon of `parachuting' persons from outside into the higher echelons of the apparatus has also been interpreted as expressing the `national connection' (Christiansen, 1997). The same has been said about hiring national experts, or about national officials seconded to the Commission (Cini, 1996).

Officials from member governments participating in the preparatory stages of a policy process, although, as previously mentioned, not formally representing their home states, may also be perceived as actors promoting national interests (Christiansen, 1997). Territorial concerns are also explicitly expressed in the comitology committees, where national officials formally represent their governments (Falke, 1996; Wessels, 1996).

To what extent then do the national and territorial features of the Commission undermine the major formal organizational principle of the institution? Evidence is relatively scarce (Christiansen, 1997; Page, 1997, p. 134). Taking the official mission of the Commission as one's point of departure, the commissioners and their cabinets seem to be the weakest points in the chain, given the recruitment procedures. The extent to which nationality impinges on behaviour should, however, not be exaggerated (Page and Wouters, 1994). Formal role expectations are, after all, relatively unambiguous. Paying inappropriate attention to national concerns can be expected to be partly curbed by the principle of collegiality in decision-making, by the `balancing effect' of the Secretary General regarding agenda setting (Spence, 1997, p. 109), and by the fact that being appointed as commissioner often marks the end of a political career (Page and Wouters, 1994).

As far as the services are concerned, studies show that officials' nationality has a significant impact on networking and to what extent points of access are made available for compatriots (Michelmann, 1978). However, when it comes to decision-making at the unit level, the DG affiliation of the officials seems to be by far the most salient factor (Egeberg, 1996). Several characteristics of the Commission and its activities are supposed to counteract the potential impact of nationality on policy-making. Among these are the chosen principles of specialization (mainly purpose and function), the large proportion of permanent posts and life-long careers, the heterogeneity as regards officials' national backgrounds even at the unit level, and, finally, the use of regulations as the main policy instrument (Egeberg, 1996). The impact of DG affiliation on officials' behaviour has also been demonstrated by Bulmer (1993) and by Cram (1994). Page (1997) made the observation that `parachuting' is strongly related to enlargements of the Union, obviously in order to cope with the quota system. Thus, `parachuting' seems to have less to do with deliberate attempts at influencing particular policy areas. Other studies show that expert and advisory groups, and even comitology committees, more often deal with professional, technical and sectoral matters than with issues activating national concerns (Majone, 1996, p. 270; Wessels, 1996).

Thus, summing up so far, the conclusion seems to be that the basic principle of organization underlying the Commission structure, though challenged, is shaping actual policy processes more than any other principle.

IV. The Council structure - the organizing principle(s)

Considering the EU as a polity in embryo, the Council of Ministers may be looked upon as the second chamber of the future legislature (`Bundesrat' variant) and the European Parliament as the first. Thus, the uppermost principle of specialization in the Council is geography, since the member countries as such are assigned seats. This primacy of nationality is formally expressed at all levels of the Council structure; the working parties, the Coreper and the ministerial meetings. Intergovernmental problems that are not solved at the working party level, become addressed once more at the Coreper levels. Being the meeting place for the ambassadors and their deputies, Coreper is the arena on which intergovernmental agreement can be reached through exchange processes across policy sectors.

It is the special responsibility of the permanent missions in Brussels, in close co-operation with the foreign ministries (or other co-ordinating ministries) at home to define the national interests that are to be fed into the Council structure. To serve those institutions in charge of formulating the national goals, all member governments have set up horizontal co-ordination structures (Pappas, 1995; Wright, 1996). However, to what extent this has been done, and co-ordination actually achieved, varies a lot across countries. United Kingdom and Denmark are at the top of this list, while Germany, Greece, Portugal and Spain are at the bottom (Metcalfe, 1994). Interestingly, then, the two nations most sceptical to further Europeanization are the two most co-ordinated. This observation is clearly consistent with our previous assumption, namely that the scope for sub-centre policy variation among territorial units depends on how tightly interlocked sectors are horizontally at this level.

Arguably, the Foreign Ministry of a country is the institution that most unambiguously expresses a nation's sovereignty. Its institutional mission is to formulate, operationalize and defend interests that are called `national'. Its organizational self-interest, one might expect, makes it inherently sceptical to `unionizing' in any deeper sense. The foreign ministries are the institutions which most obviously will become superfluous in a new super-state. Thus, foreign ministries, as far as possible, strive to retain control over external relations by attempts at centralizing those relations and subsuming them under what is defined as the national interest.3

As was the case with the Commission, the Council's official, basic principle of organization is challenged by competing specialization principles. Most obviously, the division of tasks between councils along sectoral lines is supposed to partly refocus decision-makers' attention. Even the most overarching of all councils, the General Affairs Council, is observed to be increasingly concentrating its action capacity on more limited tasks, in this case on the Union's external affairs (Dehousse, 1997). Also the secretariat of the Council, organized as a set of mini-DGs along sectoral and functional lines, like in the Commission, thus exhibits features that are challenging the primacy of territoriality.

What then do studies tell us about the relative importance of the contending principles of specialization within the Council structure? First and foremost, officials from the member states participating in the working parties have been observed to behave more restricted than when the same persons, or their colleagues, are attending Commission meetings (Kerremans, 1996). Probably, the reason is to be found in more detailed instructions from their national governments at the Council stage of a policy process. In the period between the Commission phase and the Council proceedings, alterations have been observed as regards the policy positions of officials (Spence, 1997, pp. 112-113). Thus, a kind of geographical area logic may have been applied in the meantime. Without suggesting that this kind of identification is being replaced by other orientations, studies indicate, however, that national officials' frame of reference is increasingly being complemented by sectoral and functional concerns (Beyers and Dierickx, 1997; Kerremans, 1996). National officials participating in the Council structure experience that this arena is making considerable demands on their time and attention (Wessels, 1996). Thus, given the highly specialized character of the work being done, in groups arranged according to the principles of purpose and function, it can be expected that the roles of officials are growing more complex and multi-faceted. In some instances, the Council affiliation of officials has, in fact, been observed to be more important than nationality when decision behaviour is to be explained (Kerremans, 1996, p. 232). The role of the presidency has also been shown to be more `non-national' than could be expected from a pure intergovernmentalist point of view. Achieving consensus and making progress in the integration process seem to be significant ingredients of that role (Kerremans, 1996).

To conclude, actual policy-making behaviour in the Council structure mainly reflects the structure's basic, formal principle of organization. However, sectoral and functional concerns are increasingly paid heed to, making the decision-makers' roles more complex and multi-faceted.

Though challenged, we have seen that two different logics are apparent within the two decision structures discussed. In the Commission structure, a sectoral and functional logic that stems from its basic principles of specialization, prevails. In the Council structure, on the other hand, the area principle of organization is significantly reflected in the actual policy-making processes taking place. The two competing logics are supposed to be closely linked to characteristics of the policy processes that are unfolding at the national level. The Commission structure underpins tendencies of executive fragmentation, while the Council structure, at least so far, induces co-ordination efforts at the national level. Thus, those arguing that sectorization follows from enhanced Europeanization (e.g. Burnham and Maor, 1995; Dehousse, 1997; Kassim and Wright, 1991; Siedentopf and Ziller, 1988; Wessels and Rometsch, 1996, p. 362) as well as those observing national interests to be rediscovered (e.g. Jacobson, 1997; Milward, 1996; Moravcsik, 1993) are both partly right.4 In EU countries, the two tendencies are balancing each other more or less. In an EEA country, the integrative force of the Council structure is absent. We now turn to the Norwegian case to see if this phenomenon is observable in the data.

Figure 1: Commission structure and Council structure: Main principles of specialization, and challenging principles

Commission structure Council structure
Main principle of specialization: purpose and function geography
Challenges from competing principles:
  • recruitment of Commissioners and cabinet members,
  • national quotas in the services,
  • national experts,
  • national officials on secondment.
  • purpose based specialization of ministerial meetings and working parties,
  • purpose and function based specialization of the secretariat.

V. Method and data

Our main source of data is a survey conducted in the Norwegian central government in 1996.5 The questionnaire, which covered a broad range of topics, of which `Europeanization' was one, was mailed to all officials in all ministries engaged in administrative and advisory duties which require a university education (category A staff). Those who had occupied their position for less than a year were excluded. The response rate was 72 %, which gave us a total of 1482 respondents (units) (Egeberg and Trondal, 1997). In addition, an almost identical questionnaire was administered in the central agencies subordinated to the ministries, the so-called `directorates'. The category of officials corresponding to the one selected in the ministries was included. Because of the considerable size of the directorates, however, we sampled randomly one-third of the relevant population. That gave us in the end 1025 respondents, a response rate of 64 %. The representativeness of the respondents was found to be satisfactory at both administrative levels (Egeberg and Trondal, 1997). The empirical material is better equipped to grasp changes of policies and processes than of institutions. The survey data are complemented by interview data and public documents analyzed in Trondal (1996).

VI. Empirical findings

Let us first take a look at the overall impact of the EU and the EEA agreement as it is perceived by Norwegian central government officials (table 1):

Table 1: Proportion of officials who report that they are affected by the EU and/or the EEA agreement. 1996. Percentages.

Ministries Agencies1
Affected: 'Domestic'2 Foreign Affairs  
To some extent or more......... 45 61 44
To a relatively small extent.... 28 19 23
Not affected............................ 27 20 33
Total....................................... 100






1) Agency for foreign aid (NORAD) is excluded.

2) Ministry of Defence is excluded.

Since it is hardly surprising that the Foreign Ministry is affected to some extent, we have separated this department from the `domestic' ministries and agencies in order to explicate the domestic impact. We notice that almost half of the central government officials, at both administrative levels, are involved to some extent, or more than that. Three out of four directors general in the 'domestic' ministries are affected correspondingly. Only approximately one-third of the officials see themselves as mainly unaffected. Officials affiliated with the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Industry and Energy seem to be most involved (66% and 62% to some extent or more, respectively). The corresponding numbers in the ministries least affected, the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, are 32% and 33%, respectively.

Institutional adaptation related to the EEA agreement seems, so far, to be characterized by path-dependent, incremental and, thus, moderate changes (Christensen, 1996; Sverdrup, 1997). These observations are clearly consistent with those made in EU member countries (e.g. Rometsch and Wessels, 1996). The most visible organizational adaptation that has taken place is probably the erection of a set of co-ordination committees parallel to those often found in EU member states (Trondal, 1996). This collegial structure consists of intra-departmental committees, 22 issue-specific interdepartmental committees headed by the ministries in charge of the respective policy fields, a non-specialized co-ordination committee chaired by the Foreign Ministry, and, finally, at the political level, a cabinet committee.

When it comes to adaptation of national legislation and other policy changes, the impact of the EU and the EEA is most evident, as table 2 shows.

One-third of the officials report that legislation within their policy area had to be altered as a consequence of initial adaptation to the new agreement. This proportion is significantly smaller than the proportion who found themselves affected (cf. table 1). This discrepancy may be explained by the fact that considerable parts of the relevant Norwegian legislation already had been unilaterally brought in accordance with EU's internal market legislation prior to the EEA agreement (Sollien, 1995). Table 2 also reveals the highly dynamic character of the EEA agreement. The EU's legal acts become continuously transposed into Norwegian legislation. Approximately one-third say that this happened `last year' within their own policy field.

Table 2: Proportion of officials who report about adaptation of legislation and other kinds of adaptation to EU/EEA. 1996. Percentages.

Ministries Agencies1
'Domestic'2 Foreign Affairs  
Legislative changes due to the EEA-initiative (1992-94)3.......... 31 30 35
Legislative changes last year due to the EEA agreement4............... 35 30 36
Other changes last year due to EEA ........................................... 26 29 26
Adaptations to the EU last year that can not be derived from the EEA agreement........................... 10 27 9
Mean N....................................... (1187) (178) (960)

1) Agency for foreign aid (NORAD) is excluded.

2) Ministry of Defence is excluded.

3) This includes officials who report that they have made legislative changes to some extent or more.

4) This variable, and the following two variables, include officials who report that they have made legislative changes or adaptations one time or more last year.

Of those affected to some extent, or more, by the EU or EEA, 48% in the ministries, and 21% in the agencies, interact with the Commission during a year. They participate on about 200 expert or advisory committees. The amount of participation in the Commission structure is about the same as during the so-called `interim period' (June 1994 until November 1994) preceding the referendum on Norwegian membership in the EU (Trondal, 1996). In this 'interim period', Norway was granted extensive rights of participation, also in the Council (without the right to vote, however).

Table 3: The participation of different Norwegian government organizations on committees in the Commission. 1996. Number of committees: 207.

'Domestic' Ministries participate separately on......... 30 % (62)
'Domestic' Agencies participate separately on.......... 38 % (78)
'Domestic' Ministries and agencies jointly................ 29 % (59)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

- participate separately on..........................................

- together with other ministries or agencies..............

1 % (2)

2 % (4)

Missing information about participating institutions 1 % (2)
Total.......................................................................... 101 % (207)

Source: Draft report, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1997

Table 3 clearly shows the sectoral character of the links with the Commission. Highly specialized governmental agencies are more frequent participants than ministries, and the Foreign Ministry, which was heavily involved in the Council structure during the `interim period', is almost absent.

To what extent then do other institutions intervene in EU-related sectoral policy-making? Table 4 reveals that officials affected by the EU or the EEA agreement (to some extent, or more) relatively seldom have to modify policy view points as a consequence of consultation with other institutions. Only 5% of those in 'domestic' ministries answer that this has happened during the `last year' in relation to the Prime Minister's Office, and only 18% in relation to the Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, seems to have adjusted its policy positions to a somewhat greater extent. Also consultations with parliament have resulted in few alterations. It should be remembered, however, that secondary legislation, on which it is a cabinet prerogative to decide, makes up the dominant part of the EU-related legislation (Sejersted, 1997). It is also possible that anticipation, which is a decision mechanism that may work well in a relatively small system, is reducing the need for policy-correction.

Table 4: Proportion of officials1 who report that standpoints in EU-/EEA-matters have been changed and/or modified “during the last year” due to co-ordination or consultation with the institutions listed beneath. 1996. Percentages.

'Domestic' ministries2 Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Prime Minister's office............. 5 23
Ministry of Foreign Affairs...... 18 --
Other ministries........................ 15 32
The Parliament........................ 3 16
Interest organizations............... 7 7
Mean N..................................... (463) (88)

1) This includes only officials who report that they are affected to some extent or more by the EU and/or the EEA agreement.

2) Ministry of Defence is excluded.

During the short `interim period', the countervailing forces fostered by the Council structure could, however, be observed in Norway. Regarding participation on Council working groups, the number of 'interdepartmental clearances' was estimated to 1.9 per group, while the corresponding number for committees in the Commission was 0.4 (Trondal, 1996). The survey data show that one out of three officials in 'domestic' ministries find the Foreign Ministry to be less important today than during the `interim period'. This opinion is more often held by those strongly affected by the EEA than by those less affected (gamma = 0.64). Finally, the committee structure established to facilitate co-ordination is considerably less active than during the `interim period'. For instance, the number of meetings held in the non-specialized interdepartmental committee chaired by the Foreign Ministry have been reduced from two per month to one per month, and the specialized interdepartmental committees are increasingly making non-EU-related affairs a part of their agenda (Trondal, 1996). Compared to Denmark, which has a more or less parallel co-ordination structure, the level of activity in this structure is significantly lower in Norway (Trondal, 1996).

What we now have seen in the Norwegian case is, in several respects, quite consistent with what we have reported previously about EU member states as far as their relationships with the Commission are concerned. The important difference is that, as regards the EEA affiliation form, the sectoral logic stemming from Commission linkages is not being countervailed by the territorial logic and interlocking dynamics fuelled by the Council structure. Thus, on this background, our interpretation is that the Norwegian system can be seen as more sectorally penetrated than the member states.

VII. Conclusion

Basically, organization theory aims at understanding and explaining decision-making behaviour by taking into account characteristics of the organization within which it unfolds. In this article we have focused on a structural dimension: the kind of specialization principle chosen. Concerning multi-level governance, two such principles are brought to the forefront. It is argued that a 'policy integrated' system is characterized by the primacy of purpose (sector) or function. To what extent policy variation occurs across sub-territorial units depends on the degree of horizontal interlocking of sectors at this level. In this respect, (sub-centre) sovereignty means to let the geographical principle of specialization take precedence over purpose and function.

In the EU, these contending organizational principles are embedded in important institutional structures, cross-cutting territorial levels. Though challenged, the sector logic of the Commission structure, and the geographical area logic of the Council structure are, more or less, balancing each other. It can be assumed that this duality makes the system more flexible and viable, since it is probably more convenient to alter the relative weight assigned to the two principles than to replace one principle with another. As regards the EEA countries, however, the Council structure and the interlocking dynamics it encourages, is almost 'absent'. On this ground, the argument goes that, as far as the relevant policy areas are concerned, the EEA countries may, in a sense, be seen as more sectorally penetrated than the member states. The Norwegian data show that the legislative adaptation to the EU takes place at a broad scale, and is highly dynamic. The amount of inter-sectoral interventions at the national level seems to be moderate, and the data indicate that such co-ordination efforts have been weakened subsequent to the 'interim period', during which the Council structure was open for Norwegian participation.

However, there are factors that may be modifying the sectoral penetration of Norway. First, one could ask whether the `national connections' that are still present in the Commission structure, although not dominant (cf. figure 1), are in fact inducing some `interlocking dynamics' in the Norwegian system of governance as well. One has, however, to be aware of the fact that none of the commissioners and cabinets are recruited from the EEA countries, nor are these countries covered by the national quota system as regards the recruitment of officials. Thus, the only remaining `national connection' to the Commission that might encourage horizontal co-ordination efforts in Norway is the country's participation in expert committees and advisory groups. But, as the empirical analysis has revealed, this participation is subject to very modest co-ordination efforts.

Second, the inter-sectoral committees established in order to co-ordinate Norway's relations to the EU, represent a potential countervailing force as far as sectoral penetration is concerned. It should, however, be recalled that this organizational arrangement is less active today than in the `interim period', during which Norway also was allowed to attend Council meetings, and, considerably less active than the corresponding structure in Denmark. Third, the possibility still remains, however, that anticipation represents a potent alternative co-ordination mechanism in a relatively small polity. In addition, the traditionally strong role of the Foreign Ministry concerning external relations may to some extent be transferred to the EEA policy field as a matter of routine, so to speak.

The data have indicated that there is a relationship between form of affiliation (member-/EEA-state) and to what extent inter-sectoral co-ordination takes place at the national level. The empirical material available so far can not tell us whether the relative absence of `interlocking dynamics' matters in the Norwegian case. The assumption that it is the degree of such horizontal interlocking of policy sectors at the national level in all stages of a policy process that affects the degree of policy variation across countries, rests solely on theoretical reasoning.


1. The EEA Council and the EEA Joint Committee can not be seen as relevant equivalents to the Council of the EU. The EEA Council meets at the cabinet level, and only twice a year. Information exchange on various aspects of the agreement seems to be its most important function (Statskonsult, 1998, p. 68). The EEA Joint Committee meets monthly. Its main function is to decide on the adoption of relevant EU Commission or EU Council decisions into the EEA. Given the agreement, the room for manoeuvring is very limited.

2. However, studies indicate that even in federal systems, officials formally belonging to separate levels of government identify to a considerable extent with the sector or functional area in which they are working (Page, 1992; Dehousse, 1997).

3. This close relationship between national sovereignty and the existence of a foreign ministry was clearly illustrated during the Swedish-Norwegian union under a common ruler (1814-1905). In fact, it was the struggle over the establishment of a separate ministry of foreign affairs for Norway that put an end to the union. In the 1890s, the Norwegians organized a department of foreign affairs within their Ministry of the Interior, and claimed that, subsequently, all contacts between administrative units in the two countries had to be transmitted through this department. The King, on the other hand, insisted that, since the two countries compiled a union, government organizations should interact directly without any interference from the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm, or its Norwegian equivalent (Kaartvedt, 1995).

4. The role of national interests has also been seen as dependent on the kind of policy being focused on (Peterson, 1995).

5. This survey has been financed by the ARENA programme (Advanced Research on the Europeanization of the Nation State - The Norwegian Research Council) and the University of Oslo.


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[Date of publication in the ARENA Working Paper series: 15.09.1997]