ARENA Working Papers
WP 02/19


An organisational approach to European integration -

What organisations tells us about system transformation,

committee governance and Commission decision making



Morten Egeberg

ARENA and University of Oslo


Paper presented at the ARENA seminar, 16. April, 2002. This is a slightly revised version of a paper presented at the Max Planck Project Group Common Goods: Law, Politics and Economics, Bonn 11. March, 2002. I am greatful to the participants on both occasions for their comments.


An organisational approach to European integration focuses on individual actors� organisational context in order to account for their behaviour, interests and identities. Intergovernmentalists usually preclude any profound impact of EU institutions and organisations. Institutionalists (other than rational choice institutionalists), on the other hand, claim that EU institutions are able to shape and reshape individual actors� preferences and sense of belonging. Seen from an organisational perspective, however, institutionalists often fail to specify (and theorise) the organisational components that institutions may contain. This �unpacking� of institutions is necessary in order to clarify the conditions under which transformation of actors and policy processes might occur.The paper tries to illustrate what an organisational approach has to offer in fields like committee governance and Commission decision making. In addition, organisational theory provides a yardstick for assessing the degree of overall system integration.��


The need for a complementary perspective

The purpose of this paper is to present an organisational approach to European integration. Although such a perspective may sometimes challenge ideas and insights advocated by other approaches, I find it more fruitful to consider it mainly as a complementary way to increase our understanding of what it is going on in the European Union, since I do not believe that any single theory is able to account adequately for everything. For example, liberal intergovernmentalism may be better equipped to explain �major turning points� in European integration (Moravcsik 1998:1) than how the system works on a daily basis (Peterson 1995; Krasner 1999:210). Different kinds of institutionalism ( cf. Aspinwall and Schneider 2000) may, on the other hand, do better in this respect. An organisational approach could increase our understanding of politics, policies and identity formation in settings that are organisationally well developed, but would have difficulties in explaining outcomes ofprocesses that take place in relatively �organisation-free� arenas. Even in highly structured contexts it would have difficulties in accounting for more specific outcomes, since that would presuppose detailed knowledge of actor intentions.����


Whereas Moravscik (1998) himself explicitly focuses on what he believes to be formative events in the history of European integration, the intergovernmental argument has been applied more generally on European integration for a long time (cf. Puchala 1999). From this perspective, policy-making at the European level is, in general, dominated by national governments whose interests and preferences are shaped and reshaped at the national level. Institutions, like the Commission and the Court, are managing co-operation among states by reducing transaction costs. Member countries are treated as unitary actors, thus, conflicts and cleavages at the European level are organised along (national) territorial lines. From this theoretical angle it is hard to imagine how the political order can ever be transformed in any profound sense. This intergovernmental view has been challenged by neo-functionalists (Haas 1958), various institutionalists (Bulmer 1994; Pierson 1996; Olsen 2000) and constructivists (Checkel 1999). According to these critics, institutions at the European level might play a much more significant role in the policy process, and they may be able to furnish participants with interests, preferences and identities, and even recast those already acquired at the national level. �Deliberationists� and constructivists would in particular highlight the role that arguing and persuasion might play in this respect (Eriksen and Fossum 2000; Risse 2000; Checkel, 2001). Thus, from these perspectives it seems as if a state centric system might be transcended over time, although it remains somewhat unclear how we will be able to see it when it occurs. The extent to which member states actually comply with Community decisions was also put on the institutionalist research agenda. From an institutionalist perspective, implementation of EU legislation is not only a question of will and incentives, but is seen as highly contingent upon national administrative traditions (Knill 2001; Sverdrup 2000).


From an organisational perspective, the extent to which institutions might impinge profoundly on people�s pre-established mind-sets and loyalties has to depend on how these institutions are organised. First, settings that impose only relatively modest demands on decision-makers� attention, such as, for example, many Commission or Council groups, can not be expected to have the same impact as institutions to which individuals devote most of their energy, like for example national ministries or Commission directorates. Second, institutions at the EU level can be organised in ways that sustain and underpin rather than deeply challenge already acquired identities. And, third, and somewhat paradoxically, such �non-socialisation� within EU institutions might be interpreted as highly conducive to further European integration and transformation of the existing political order. In the same vein, from an organisational angle, it is quite possible that individual resocialisation at the EU level may contribute to system preservation. These seeming paradoxes emerge since some EU institutions are such structured that they counteract an intergovernmental order (e.g., the Commission), while the set-up of others tend to accentuate that same order (e.g., the Council). An organisational approach provides a yardstick for measuring system transformation in a relatively consistent way across systems of governance.


In order to grasp the mechanisms behind it is necessary to unpack the basic organisational characteristics of the institutions within which individuals interact. Thus, I proceed from here by first presenting the approach�s key variables: organisational structure, organisational demography, organisational locus, and institutionalisation. The approach basically treats these variables as independent variables. (However, we may also, but not in this paper, be interested in explaining and understanding organisational (re)structuring, recruitment, (re)locating and institutionalisation processes themselves. In that case, they are also treated as dependent variables.) As will be seen, an organisational perspective focuses more on generic features of organisations than on highly concrete legal procedures, like co-operation, co-decision, comitology, or QMV, as often focused upon in legal and rational choice institutionalism (cf. Aspinwall and Schneider 2000). Furthermore, an organisational approach offers an account of individual preference and identity formation and change. Political analysis can not rely extensively on models that do not accommodate this vital aspect of political life. I then try to show how the organisational argument can be applied in an EU context by presenting �operational� criteria for system transformation, and by discussing actors� identity and preference formation in Council and Commission settings. The argument could, of course, also have been applied on other institutions, like the European Parliament, and on national co-ordination and implementation processes.

Organisational key variables

Organisational structure. An organisational structure is a normative structure composed of rules and roles specifying, more or less clearly, who are expected to do what, and how (Scott 1981). Thus, the structure defines the interests and goals that are to be pursued, and the concerns that should be emphasised. The �relevance criteria� embedded in role expectations guide search processes, and bias information exposure. Thus, normative structures forge information networks for the development of agendas, alternatives and learning. Since a decision-maker is unable to attend to everything at the same time, and to consider all possible alternatives and their consequences (cf. �bounded rationality�), it seems to be a perfect match between her/his need for simplification on the one hand and the selection and filter that organisation provides on the other (Simon1965). The structure can therefore never be neutral, it always represents a mobilisation of bias in preparation for action (Schattschneider 1975:30).


What reasons then do we have to expect that people will comply with organisational norms from the moment they enter an organisation? First, they may feel a moral obligation to do so. Modern cultures, emphasising impersonal relationships and �rationalised� codes of conduct in organisational life, assist individuals at separating their private interests from those that should be catered for in their capacity as employees or representatives. Second, they may find compliance to be in accordance with their self-interest. Organisations are incentive systems that inform members at lower levels of their potential career prospects, thus inducing them to adopt autonomously to role expectations and codes of conduct. And managers may apply rewards and punishments in order to achieve obedience. Finally, and third, social control and �peer review� by colleagues are supposed to make deviant behaviour less likely. Thus, these mechanisms do not imply that organisational members give up their private interests from the moment they enter an organisation. However, personal preferences are put aside and are thus supposed to be of minor importance in explaining organisational behaviour. Even if the mechanisms fail, it could be argued that participants would be unable to define and operationalise their genuine private interests in any meaningful and coherent way in most issue areas. One obvious exception to this could, however, be decision processes that might impact more directly on their career prospects, for example, reorganisation processes.


I now turn to some dimensions of organisational structure that are supposed to be of particular relevance for our topic here. Horizontal specialisation expresses how different issues and policy areas, for example transport and environmental protection,are supposed to be linked together or de-coupled from each other. Those areas that are encompassed by the same organisational unit are more likely to be co-ordinated than those that belong to different units (Gulick 1937). According to Gulick, there are four fundamental ways in which tasks may be distributed horizontally among units, namely in relation to territory, purpose (sector), process (function), or clientele served. If, for example, an organisation is internally specialised according to the geographical areas served, the structure reflects the territorial composition of the system and focuses attention along territorial lines of cleavage. Such an arrangement is expected to induce spatial frames of reference and to encourage policy-makers to pay attention primarily to particular territorial concerns and need for �intra-local� policy coherence.Organisations based on a purpose principle, on the other hand, are supposed to foster sectoral horizons among decision-makers and to emphasise policy standardisation across territorial units.


A primary structure is a much more �demanding� organisational structure than a secondary structure. Affiliation to a primary structure means that a person is expected to use most of her or his time in a particular organisation. The organisation is her/his main employer. Secondary structures, on the other hand, usually engage people only on a part-time basis. The typical setting is a committee system. Modern systems of governance co-ordinate policies extensively across levels and sectors through committees. Thus, participants become exposed to new agendas, alternatives, actors and obligationsWe therefore expect that committees, like other organisational arrangements, might affect the perspectives, interests and identities of those who attend, for example by expanding frames of reference and identification. However, the impact will be less profound than in organisations to which persons have a primary attachment. If the primary and the secondary organisation build on the same or compatible principles of specialisation, conceptions and mind-sets will be largely sustained and accentuated when decision-makers move from the one role to the other. Are, however, these principles different and incompatible, we would expect preferences and identities to be challenged when participants move from on setting to another.


To install a kind of structure at a higher level that is incompatible with the structure below means to integrate (or co-ordinate strongly) the different parts of the subordinated organisation. This is thought to happen since the design of the superior entity in this case will rearrange and refocus the pattern of conflict and co-operation found at the lower level (March 1994: 119-20; Egeberg, forthcoming). Thus, if, for example, a highly compartmentalised administration ought to be better co-ordinated, one possible solution could be to organise the upper level by geography. Conversely, then, if the purpose is to integrate a set of territories, the organisational remedy would probably be to arrange the level above according to sector or other non-geographical principles of specialisation.


Organisational demography. According to Pfeffer (1982:277) demography refers to the composition, in terms of basic attributes such as age, sex, nationality, education and length of service of the social entity under study. Such factors are supposed to impact on decision behaviour, although the strength of potential effects have to depend on characteristics of the organisational structure, for example how �demanding� it is (Meier and Nigro 1976; L�greid and Olsen 1984). Even more, a wide variety of socialisation experiences are not relevant to policy disputes and thus are unlikely to reveal a representational linkage (Selden 1997:65). One may say that the demographic perspective emphasises the effects that flows of personnel (where people come from, their present and future careers) might have on their decision behaviour. Whereas the effects of organisational structure are thought to occur without any socialisation of personnel, the impacts of demographic factors are closely related to socialisation. Socialisation usually means that values, norms and role expectations have become internalised in individuals. New recruits arrive �pre-packed� with images and attitudes acquired over the years in particular social, geographical and educational settings. With increasing length of service in a particular organisation, they may, however, become resocialised. Socialised organisational members identify themselves strongly with a particular organisation, and are supposed to advocate its interests �automatically� in the sense that these interests are taken for granted and legitimate without further consideration. Arguably, the extent to which an organisation has to rely on external control mechanisms (incentives and sanctions) depends on the extent to which decision-makers have become socialised within that same organisation.


Considered as individual attributes, only length of service can, in a strict sense, qualify as a real organisational factor among the demographic variables mentioned. However, this becomes different if we instead deal with proportions of a given organisational �population� that come from, for example, different regions or professions. Clusters, or �enclaves�, seem to make it more likely that particular group interests might be pursued (Selden 1997).��


Organisational locus. The physical dimension of organisational life has not been emphasised very much in the literature (Pfeffer 1982:260-71). However, most organisations are located in particular places and buildings. First, features of location and physical space segregate private lives and their associated role conceptions and identities from organisational roles and identities. Second, multiple organisational memberships that are separated in space (and then often time) provide cues for evoking different roles and identities, while concentration in space (and then often time) makes it more likely that role perceptions and identities are carried over from one unit into another (March 1994:70-73). Third, physical distance within and between government buildings seems to affect contact patters and co-ordination behaviour (Egeberg, forthcoming). In short, organisational locus, like organisational structure, creates boundaries that focus decision maker�s attention and assist them in coping with a complex reality. Processes involving considerable uncertainty, unpredictability and surprise require information exchange via face-to-face contacts and group conversation. Thus, such processes are in a sense highly locus dependent (J�nsson et al. 2000:186).


Institutionalisation. From an organisational point of view all institutions are organisations, not all organisations are, however, institutions. Institutionalisation is a dimension of organisations that adds important characteristics. Thus, the present tendency to classify all kinds of rules, regimes and organisations as institutional phenomena has given us a poorer concept of institution. According to Selznick (1957), institutionalisation necessarily takes time. It means that organisations are growing increasingly complex by adding informal norms and practices. To become a real institution, however, Selznick (1957:17-22) argued that the �grown-up� and complex organisation also had to be infused with value beyond the technical requirements of the task at hand. By this he meant that an organisation acquires a self, a distinctive identity, involving the taking on ofvalues, ways of acting and believing that are deemed important for their own sake. For the individuals who participate directly in it, an organisation may acquire much institutional value, yet in the eyes of the larger community the organisation may be readily expendable. Thus, arguably, from a political perspective, organisations become real institutions as they come to symbolise the community�s aspirations, its sense of identity. Real institutions embody societal values, and strive to impose those same values on society. Institutionalisation could mean that not only particular organisational structures and informal norms become infused with value and meaning, but also a particular demographic composition of the organisation, for example as regards professional groups, and also the place and building associated with the organisation (Goodsell 1988).


A broad context of�understood� meanings may represent a considerable aid to communication in institutions. It may create energy that increases performance and co-ordination, and be of special importance in times of crisis or threat (Selznick 1957:18; Brunsson and Olsen 1993:5). An other implication of institutionalisation deals with the possibilities for deliberate reform and reorganisation. �An organization that does take on this symbolic meaning has some claim on the community to avoid liquidation or transformation on purely technical or economic grounds� (Selznick 1957:19). The inherent robustness of institutions now seems widely acknowledged in the literature.


Quasi-institutionalisation. There may exist an alternative to the historical path to institutionalisation. All organisations and institutions find themselves within �institutionalised environments�, that is environments composed of legitimate models of what is seen as good and modern organisation, procedures and recruitment practices (Meyer and Rowan 1977). Thus, organisations could institutionalise faster by adopting already historically developed forms that are seen as highly appropriate for equivalent organisations. There certainly are models �out there� of how executives, legislatures, courts and central banks could be properly structured, staffed and housed.

Applying the argument on the European Union - some examples

What organisation tells as about system transformation. Intergovernmentalists, like Moravcsik (1998), do not offer any cues for ascertaining profound transformation of the European state system if it occurs. This may, of course, be due to the fact that such change, according to the theory, seems highly unlikely. However, there are many other proposals floating around on how the transformation of Europe�s system of governance might be properly portrayed and recognised. For example, neo-functionalists determine the degree of integration and governance transformation by considering how many, and which, government functions or issue areas are dealt with at the EU level (Lindberg and Scheingold 1970; Schmitter 1996). Some prefer to emphasise the amount of �interwovenness� or �multi-levelness� (Kohler-Koch 1996), or �fusion� (Wessels 1998), while others portray the EU polity as loosely coupled and open-ended (Richardson 1996; Laffan 1998; Heritier 1999). From an institutionalist perspective Europe will be more integrated the more say EU level institutions actually have in relation to national instituions, and the more the interests and identities of policy makers can be moulded and moved within EU institutions (Olsen 2000).


An alternative, or complementary interpretation, is that deep transformation, if it occurs, can best be grasped by considering the basic principles of organisation that are embedded in core institutions. The Westphalian state order was organised along territorial lines so that only interstate conflicts were brought to the fore at the European level. The institutional building blocks were the territorial states and, later, an increasing number of intergovernmental conferences and organisations. These organisations may have facilitated collective problem-solving among national governments, however, one could argue that such international institutions may have sustained rather than transcended the existing state system and its inherent pattern of conflict and co-operation. The reason may be found in the way these organisations have been specialised; their structure reflects the territorial composition of the system and thus underpins the system�s basic line of cleavage. In the EU the Council most clearly fills this role, although its spatial logic is challenged by sectorally and functionally arranged ministerial meetings and working parties. The fundamental new thing in post WWII Europe is the gradual emergence of organisations and institutions at the European level that, due to their specialisation, focus conflict along non-territorial lines, for example, sectoral, sectional, ideological and institutional lines.The European Commission, Parliament, Court of Justice and Central Bank all allow (and mostly oblige) participants to depart from national role conceptions and allegiances. These organisations, arguably, frame politics differently, emphasising policy makers� loyalty and sense of belonging to particular directorates, interest groups, political parties or professions rather than to particular nation states. Role perceptions, identities and patterns of conflict that are well known at the national level are thus transmittedand expanded to EU arenas. It is a well established insight from political science that expanding (�socialising�) conflict, or refocusing lines of cleavage, entails new allocations of power so that new sets of winners and losers are produced (Schattschneider 1975). This development may be fuelled by national compartmentalisation and the tendency to let prime ministers play an increasingly central co-ordinating role in EU matters at the expense of foreign ministries (Kassim 2000:236). While pursuing national interests are at the core of foreign ministries� mission, prime ministers are, arguably, more used to launch party political programmes, for example, on the role of the public sector in the economy.��


Patterns of conflict in political life are thus here seen as tightly linked to institutions and organisations. There are many conflicts and potential conflicts out there. Some of these are organised into politics, some are organised out. Institutions discriminate among conflicts, they channel conflict and do not treat all conflicts impartially. For example, it is not given from nature that the main line of cleavage at the European level since the second half of the seventeenth century has been found among states. It is indeed a result of the organisation of political power in Europe. Centralised state powers may have, more or less, tolerated differentiated patterns of conflict and loyalty at the national level, but have at the same time claimed subordination of sub-national conflicts and allegiances on the international scene. Nevertheless, there are instances where political parties, interest organisations and sub-national regions have tried to ally with their counterparts across national borders in order to reallocate power (cf., for example, socialist trade unions and parties). At the European level, however, conflict and co-operation among nations have been clearly dominant.


Based on an organisational understanding we are now able to formulate more precise criteria according to which the degree of system transformation might be assessed: The extent to which sub-territories are politically integrated into a larger system is reflected in the extent to which the interests of these sub-territories are expressed organisationally at the centre. Thus, in a highly integrated political system, non-territorial principles of organisational specialisation have taken clear precedence over the territorial principle at the centre (Egeberg 2001). As in unitary states, the institutional configuration at the centre does only marginally reflect the territorial composition of the system. For example, national executives are usually arranged according to sector or function rather than geography, and parliaments, for the most part, structure themselves along ideological (partisan) and sectoral (cf. standing committees) lines of cleavage. In weakly integrated systems, on the other hand, like traditional intergovernmental organisations, the overarching governance structure is geographically specialised at the top level. Similar to the federal state, but unlike the unitary state and the intergovernmental organisation, the EU embodies a certain balance between different specialisation principles (Sbragia 1993). In contrast to the federal state, though, in the EU non-territorial components do not seem to have take any precedence over territorial ones. However, my interpretation is that, over time, reform efforts and actual changes have gradually strengthened non-territorial principles of organisational specialisation at the EU level (Egeberg 2001).


Governance by committees. At the EU level we find both primary and secondary organisations. The Commission, for example, is the primary affiliation of the Commissioners as well as of the officials in the services. Thus, we would expect their interests and identities to be shaped mainly by the Commission, and even more so for the officials who hold permanent posts than for the Commissioners. The preparatory committees in the Commission and the Council, on the other hand, represent secondary arenas, in which national officials as well as Commission officials participate. Accordingly, preferences and identities are supposed to change only partly herein, although additional concerns and loyalties might emerge. The fact that most EU meetings are separated in time and space from the daily activities of most national officials makes the evocation of new perceptions more likely. Particular places, buildings and symbols (like the blue flag with the golden stars), may gradually become associated with a particular code of conduct (cf. the locus dimension).


However, since some committees are clearly more active than others, the extent to which socialisation actually takes place may vary significantly across groups. COREPER, for example, meets weekly and is composed of national officials who also live in Brussels for several years. The location facilitates extensive informal interaction across nationalities, and could be thought to make the COREPER setting particularly conducive to persuasion. A sense of extraordinary collective responsibility and supranational loyalty seem indeed to have complemented national allegiances in this case (Lewis 1998). The working parties at the level below are also comprised of several people from the Permanent Representations in Brussels, although they are supplemented considerably by officials brought in from national capitals. However, as expected, also among genuine �part-timers� in Council and Commission committees one can observe behavioural and attitudinal traits that may be interpreted as having a supranational flavour (Kerremans 1996; Joerges and Neyer 1997; Beyers and Dierickx 1998; Egeberg 1999; Trondal and Veggeland, forthcoming; Trondal 2001a; Trondal 2001b).


Arguably, the Council�s basic principle of specialisation is geography (territory) in the sense that each participant (except the Commission representative) is supposed to represent a particular national government. However, since the Council also divides its work according to sector or function at the ministerial and working party level, an additional specialisation principle is highly present. Thus, although participants also at these levels are expected to identify themselves with their respective governments, the organisational setting is in fact somewhat ambiguous. The result might well be thatsectoral and functional identities could be evoked simultaneously, although not to the same extent.


The Commission, however, divides its work primarily according to sector or function, clearly expressed in the existence of directorates general (DGs) for, for example, agriculture, energy and transport, and budget. At all levels, including the preparatory expert committees, participants are not, as a main rule, expected to represent their country of origin. Neither this organisational setting is, however, unambiguous. Since the participants have their primary attachment to national governments they may feel themselves obliged to take the interests of their masters back home seriously into account as well. In addition, the Commission itself may be interested in having the views of the Member States presented in order to anticipate more precisely future Council reactions.


As shown in Figure 1, the Council structure can be said to be compatible with the organising principle expressed in the existence of a Foreign Ministry and its Permanent Representations whose mission is to represent a particular country.

Figure 1

The compatibility of organising principles at the national and EU level.

Foreign ministries and��������� Sectoral ministries
���������������������������� �their representations

EU Council�������������������� relative compatibility�������� relative incompatibility

EU Commission����������� �relative incompatibility����� relative compatibility

Thus, although frequent interaction among diplomats in the Council may lead to enhanced collective responsibility and reciprocity (Lewis 1998), one could argue that their territorial identities acquired in their primary institutions (i.e. foreign ministries and their delegations) are sustained rather than profoundly challenged by the organisational characteristics of the Council. In the Commission setting, on the other hand, the same diplomats would face an incompatible organisational environment that is supposed to challenge their established world views, for example by focusing attention along sectoral and functional lines of cleavage rather than territorial ones. Those from national sector ministries are supposed to make the opposite experiences. Their already acquired identities will be further accentuated by the Commission structure while put under a certain pressure in the Council (Egeberg 1999; Trondal 2001b; Schaefer et al. 2000). Accordingly, Jacobsson (1999) observed that the Swedish accession to the EU entailed an increased demand for Swedish policy positions. Thus, through EU participation sector experts became more aware of their national identities. At a first glance this observation seems rather paradoxical given the increased level of transborder interaction. However, it is quite understandable if incompatibility has been at work. National sector experts, in their daily work back home, tend to identify themselves with their respective agencies, or parts of them, and only seldom with their government as such (Egeberg, forthcoming). Thus, for the most part, they are used to present the concerns of their respective administrative units, and not those of their government (or nation). The Council setting may thus impose on them interests and identities they are not particularly familiar with, namely their governments� interests. Therefore, in order to assess the extent to which preferences and identities may be moved, complemented or even reshaped, we have to take the organisational characteristics of the institutional setting seriously into account.


As already argued, a territorially based intergovernmental system can only be really transcended if non-territorial principles of organisational specialisation take precedence at the system centre, as is the case in federal and unitary states (cf. Egeberg 2001). Thus, another seeming paradox emerges: resocialisation of national actors at the EU level due to incompatible organisational structures is not necessarily conducive to further system transformation. Although resocialising diplomats in the Commission setting might probably foster further integration, transforming national sector officials into government representatives in the Council most likely will sustain rather than challenge the intergovernmental pattern. By the same token, established identities that are not seriously challenged due to compatible organisational structures might turn out as highly conducive to further integration. This may be the case for national experts who attend Commission committee meetings since these people are supposed to maintain their sectoral identities.���


The Commission and its personnel. The role that national interests might play in Commission decision-making is a highly contentious and enduring issue. Most authors assign some weight to the �national connection�, in particular at the levels of the cabinets and college (Coombes 1970; Cini 1996; Nugent 2001). It has, however, also been stated that the Commission is even permeated by national interests, and acts as an important forum for competition between them (Peterson 1999:59). Most intergovernmentalists would probably tend to see commissioners, their cabinet members, as well as officials in the services, as actors mainly pursuing the interests of their respective national governments. Institutionalists, on the other hand, would most likely emphasise that the Commission, like other institutitons, furnish individual actors with particular interests and beliefs, and that it may even be able to resocialize people so that they gradually come to assume supranational identities. From an organisational perspective, the contending approaches may both be correct in their assumptions: the extent to which individuals� preferences and allegiances might become shaped or reshaped within the Commission has to depend on the Commission�s organisational structure, organisational demography and on the degree of institutionalisation (Egeberg 1996). To illuminate the argument, let us contrast two alternative organisational designs of the Commission; one that is supposed to be highly conducive to an intergovernmental pattern of behaviour (alternative 1), and one assumed to be far more compatible with the institutional expectation (alternative 2). In alternative 1 the Commission is specialised according to the geographical area served so that it contains one particular department (i.e. DG) for each member state. All posts are temporary, and they are filled by nationals from the country served. Each member government appoints the staff of �their� respective departments. Alternative 2 means that the organisational structure reflects different sectors or functions rather than the territorial components (countries) of the system. Posts are permanent and units are staffed multi-nationally so that national clusters or enclaves do not emerge. Officials are recruited by the Commission itself, and they have life-long careers for the most part. Thus, in order to grasp how the Commission actually works we have to unpack the organisational features that are present. These features do not necessarily work coherently in the same direction as in the alternatives outlined above. Since there are underlying tensions in most important institutions, as, for example, between intergovernmentalism and supranationalism in the Commission, the organisation of the day often expresses the competing forces behind.


Starting with the Commission services, they are obviously composed of nationals who are supposed to be �pre-packed� with national experiences, norms and values. One could argue that the informal national quota system regulating recruitment in relation to the population size of the member states (Spence 1994) might serve to legitimate the evocation of national identities and policy paradigms within the EU administration. Empirical studies show that Commission officials serve as points of access for their compatriots (Michelmann 1978; Egeberg 1996). They also seem to bring with them different administrative styles, associated with, for example, a southern versus a northern European culture (McDonald 1997). Nationality also impacts on their beliefs and attitudes on intergovernmentalism versus supranationalism (Hooghe 1999a), on a Weberian versus a consociational Commission (Hooghe 1999b), and on socialism versus capitalism in Europe (Hooghe 2001). Although these personal attitudes may be seen as some sort of paradigms, belief systems or conceptual lenses that might somehow make a difference in a given decision situation, they are, nevertheless, of a relatively general nature. To become relevant in a given decision context, they have to be operationalised, and they have to pass several potential organisational filters. First, considering organisational demography, officials may become resocialised. Routinely, steps are also taken in order to avoid national clusters or enclaves to develop. Thus, staff immediately below or above a given senior post should be of a different nationality (Spence 1994), and the divisions (�units�) are multi-nationally composed (Egeberg 1996). Second, for most officials the Commission is their primary organisational affiliation. Most posts are permanent (Spence 1994), and they are mainly grouped according to purpose or function, thus making it less likely that the incumbents will focus on territorial (national) concerns as such (Egeberg 1996), and more likely that conflict will occur along sectoral lines. Studies do seem to reveal that the structural (DG) attachment of officials probably is the best predictor of their decision behaviour (Cram 1994; Egeberg 1996; McDonald 1997; M�rth 2000). Also, interviews and a survey conducted among national officials who participate in EU-level policy-making show that Commission officials are seen as acting mainly independently from particular national interests (Egeberg 1999, Schaefer et al. 2000; Trondal 2001b).


Concerning the College of Commissioners there are aspects of its organisational structure that might be conducive to enhancing the importance of demographic background factors like nationality. In particular, the fact that commissioners are nominated by member governments for a limited number of years may have this effect. In addition, their �private offices� (cabinets) have traditionally been mainly staffed by their compatriots. On the other hand, role expectations are unambiguous; instructions from outside �the house� should not be taken. Reforms that have assigned to the President of the Commission and the European Parliament a more important role in composing the college may further contribute to �autonomising� the Commission from member state control. Multi-national staffing of cabinets probably work in the same direction. Finally, since the commissioners are embedded in a dual organisational structure composed of the college as well as the directorates general, the relocation of commissioners over to the latter (cf. the locus dimension) may have strengthened their sectoral identities at the expense of their collegial and national affiliations. (1)However, only careful empirical examination can reveal whose interests commissioners actually pursue. This topic is highly underresearched indeed. (See, however, Smith (2002) on ongoing research.)


Has the Commission become institutionalised so that the robustness, legitimacy and sense of mission often associated with institutions are to be reckoned with? One interpretation is that efforts at quasi-institutionalisation, thus by-passing the historical path of institutionalisation, have indeed been made. Administrative jargon and components, like, for example, cabinets and concours (competitive examinations), have obviously been borrowed from French administration, probably the most prestigious bureaucracy found among the early member states. British and Danish accession may have accelerated the need for legitimating elements that are seen as integral to their administrative culture. For example, too much cabinet involvement in the appointment of top officials are, from their point of view, inappropriate practices. When the Committee of Independent Experts also unveiled instances of nepotism in their report (that in fact sacked the Santer Commission), it seems quite understandable that Vice President Kinnock, in his reform programme, declared appointments could be made solely on the basis of merit and experience.(2)


With a history that goes back to the establishment of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952, the Commission has existed long enough to have become an institution �in the real way�. Obviously, it is today something more than a sheer formal organisation. It contains informal norms that are important for the operation of the organisation, for example the national quota system (Spence 1994). Although several cultural traits can be traced back to the administrative cultures of the member states, authors increasingly seem to point out that a distinguishable Eurocrat-culture is slowly emerging (Abeles et al. 1993; McDonald 1997). The Commission � �the House� as it is referred to colloquially and affectionately by its staff � has developed its own ethos and a strong esprit de corps (Shore 2000:127). An important part of its mission, namely to act independently from particular national interests, is also highly acknowledged by national officials who deal with Commission officials in expert committees and Council working parties (Egeberg 1999; Schaefer et al. 2000; Trondal 2001b). However, since the Commission more clearly than any of the other EU institutions symbolises the EU�s departure from the traditional intergovernmental organisation, its legitimacy in the wider political space may be more problematic. While EU-sceptics would like to see the Commission more as a second secretariat for the Council, pro-integrationists prefer to perceive it as the (future) European government. The Commission�s somewhat unclarified role is also reflected in some of the scholarly literature which portrays the EU executive as dual, where the Council and the Commission share the responsibilities of government (Hix 1999:21). However, although the proper role of the Commission is still contested, its existence is not on the agenda. Thus, it has become an institution in the sense that it is taken for granted.��


An organisational approach provides a yardstick for measuring system integration and transformation in a relatively consistent way across systems of governance. If sectors are to be co-ordinated, an overarching structure specialised by geography may serve this purpose. If nations are subject to integration, as in our case, non-territorially arranged institutions at the centre express a high level of system transformation. Thus, if national actors become resocialised at the EU level we also know the potential implications of this: when national sector ministry officials take up roles as national government representatives in the Council this is not particularly conducive to further system integration. When, on the other hand, the same people are allowed to maintain their basic identities in Commission committees (thus becoming only slightly resocialised) they may in fact contribute to transcending an intergovernmental order.


Like neo-functionalists, institutionalists (other than rational choice institutionalists) and constructivists, �organisationists� consider preference formation and change endogenous to their models. However, organisational analysts would find it necessary to specify the organisational setting in a much more precise way in order to clarify the conditions under which preference and identity alteration might take place, and in what direction changes may occur. This should, however, be done without having to rely heavily on rather concrete, legal categories, as is often used in rational choice institutionalism. Instead, the focus should be on dimensions of a more abstract and genericnature that may be theoretically linked to particular role perceptions, identities, patterns of conflict, and decision processes. Here, a distinction has been made between organisational attachments of a primary and secondary character. Secondary structures, like EU committees, can not be expected to impact profoundly on policy makers� minds, although they may add allegiances and widen decision horizons to some extent. Compatibility between principles of specialisation underlying primary and secondary structures (as found between national sector ministries and Commission committees) accentuate basic identities that participants have already acquired in the primary entity, while incompatibility (as seen between national sector ministries and Council committees)tends to challenge and partly reformulate them. Those who have their primary affiliations at the EU level, for example Commission officials, could be subject to more deep transformation. However, the extent to which this may actually happen has to depend on the organisational structure�s ability to decouple previous (external) socialisation experiences from present decision situations.



1 See also European Voice 8-14 February 2001, p. 12.

2 Press statement by Vice President Neil Kinnock, 29 September 1999.���������



Abeles, M., Bellier, I. and McDonald, M. (1993) Approche Antropologique de la Commission Europeenne`. Executive Summary. Brussels: The European Commission.

Aspinwall, M. and Schneider, G. (2000) �Same menu, separate tables: The institutionalist turn in political science and the study of European integration�, European Journal of Political Research 38: 1-36.


Beyers, J. and Dierickx, G. (1998) �The working groups of the Council of the

European Union: supranational or intergovernmental negotiations?�, Journal of

Common Market Studies 36: 289-317.


Brunsson, N. and Olsen, J.P. (1993) The Reforming Organization. London: Routledge.


Bulmer, S. J. (1994) 'The governance of the European Union: a new institutional

approach', Journal of Public Policy 13: 351-3.


Checkel, J. (1999) �Social construction and integration�, Journal of European Public Policy 6: 545-60.


Checkel, J. (2001) �Why comply? Social learning and European identity change�, International Organization 55: 553-88.


Cini, M. (1996) The European Commission. Leadership, Organisation and Culture in the EU Administration. Manchester: Manchester University Press.


Coombes, D. (1970) Politics and Bureaucracy in the European Community, London: George Allen and Unwin.


Cram, L. (1994) �The European Commission as a multi-organization: social policy and IT policy in the EU�, Journal of European Public Policy 1:195-217.


Egeberg, M. (1996) 'Organization and nationality in the European Commission

services', Public Administration 74: 721-735.


Egeberg, M. (1999) �Transcending intergovernmentalism? Identity and role perceptions of national officials in EU decision-making�, Journal of European Public Policy 6: 456-74.


Egeberg, M. (2001) �How federal? The organisational dimension of integration in the EU (and elsewhere)�, Journal of European Public Policy 8: 728-46.


Egeberg, M. (forthcoming) �How bureaucratic structure matters: an organizational perspective�, in B.G. Peters and J. Pierre (eds), Handbook of Public Administration. London: Sage.


Eriksen, E.O. and Fossum, J.E. (eds) (2000) Democracy in the European Union. Integration through Deliberation. London: Routledge.


Goodsell, C.T. (1988) The Social Meaning of Civic Space. Studying Political Authority through Architecture. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.


Gulick, L. (1937) �Notes on the theory of organization. With special reference to government�, in L. Gulick and L. Urwich (eds), Papers on the Science of Administration, New York: Institute of Public Administration, Columbia University.


Haas, E.B (1958) The Uniting of Europe. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


Heritier, A. (1999) Policy-Making and Diversity in Europe. Escape from Deadlock. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Hix, S. (1999) The Political System of the European Union. Houndmills: Macmillan Press.


Hooghe, L. (1999a) �Supranational activists or intergovernmental agents? Explaining political orientations of senior Commission officials to European integration�, Comparative Political Studies 32: 435-63.


Hooghe, L. (1999b) �Consociationalists or Weberians? Top Commission officials on nationality�, Governance 12: 397-424.


Hooghe, L. (2001) The European Commission and the Integration of Europe. Images of Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Jacobsson, B. (1999) �Europeiseringen och statens omvandling�, in K. Goldmann, J. Hallenberg, B. Jacobsson, U. M�rth and A. Robertson, Politikens Internationalisering, Lund: Studentlitteratur.


Joerges, C. and Neyer, J. (1997) �Transforming strategic interaction into deliberative problem-solving: European comitology in the foodstuffs sector�, Journal of European Public Policy 4: 609-25.


J�nsson, C., T�gil, S. and T�rnqvist, G. (2000) Organizing European Space, London: Sage.


Kassim, H, (2000) �Conclusion: The national co-ordination of EU policy: Confronting the challenge�, in H. Kassim, B.G. Peters and V. Wright (eds), The National Co-ordination of EU Policy. The Domestic Level, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Kerremans, B. (1996) 'Do institutions make a difference? Non-institutionalism,

neo-institutionalism, and the logic of common decision-making in the European Union', Governance 9: 217-40.


Knill, C. (2001) The Europeanisation of National Administrations. Patterns of Institutional Change and Persistence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Kohler-Koch, B. (1996) �The strength of weakness: the transformation of governance in the EU�, in S. Gustavsson and L. Lewin (eds), The Future of the Nation-State. London: Routledge.


Krasner, S (1999) �Logics of consequences and appropriateness in the international system�, in M. Egeberg and P. L�greid (eds), Organising Political Institutions. Essays for Johan P. Olsen, Oslo: Scandinavian University Press.


Laffan, B. (1998) �The European Union: a distinctive model of internationalization�, Journal of European Public Policy, 5: 235-53.


Lewis, J. (1998) �Is the �hard bargaining� image of the Council misleading? The Committee of Permanent Representatives and the local elections directive�, Journal of Common Market Studies 36: 479-504.


Lindberg, L. And Scheingold, S. (1970) Europe�s Would-Be Polity. Patters of Change in the European Community. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.


L�greid, P. and Olsen, J.P. (1984) �Top civil servants in Norway: key players - on different teams?� in E.N. Suleiman (ed.), Bureaucrats and Policy-Making, New York: Holmes & Meier.


March, J.G. (1994) A Primer on Decision Making. How Decisions Happen, New York: The Free Press.


McDonald, M. (1997) �Identities in the European Commission�, in N. Nugent (ed), At the Heart of the Union. Studies of the European Commission, Houndmills: Macmillan Press.


Meier, K.J. and Nigro, L.G. (1976) �Representative bureaucracy and policy preferences: a study in the attitudes of federal executives�, Public Administration Review 36: 458-69.


Meyer, J.W. and Rowan, B. (1977) �Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony�, American Journal of Sociology 83: 340-63.


Michelmann, H.J. (1978) �Multinational staffing and organizational functioning in the Commission of the European Communities, International Organization 32: 477-96.


Moravcsik, A. (1998) The Choice for Europe. Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to Maastricht, London: UCL Press.


M�rth, U. (2000) �Competing frames in the European Commission � the case of the defence industry and equipment issue�, Journal of European Public Policy 7: 173-89.


Nugent, N. (2001) The European Commission, Houndmills: Palgrave.


Olsen, J.P. (2000) �Organising European institutions of governance. A prelude to an institutional account of political integration�, in H. Wallace (ed), Whose Europe? Interlocking Dimensions of Integration, London: Macmillan.


Peterson, J. (1995) �Decision-making in the European Union: Towards a framework for analysis�, Journal of European Public Policy 2: 63-93.


Peterson, J. (1999) �The Santer era: the European Commission in normative, historical and theoretical perspective�, Journal of European Public Policy 6: 46-65.


Pfeffer, J. (1982) Organizations and Organization Theory, Boston: Pitman.


Pierson, P. (1996) �The path to European integration. A historical institutionalist analysis�, Comparative Political Studies, 29: 123-63.


Puchala, D.J. (1999) �Institutionalism, intergovernmentalism and European integration: A review article�, Journal of Common Market Studies 37: 317-31.


Richardson, J. (1996) �Policy-making in the EU. Interests, ideas and garbage cans of primeval soup�, in J. Richardson (ed), European Union: Power and Policy-making, London: Routledge.


Risse, T. (2000) ��Let�s argue!� Communicative action in world politics�, International Organization 54: 1-40.


Sbragia, A.M. (1993) �The European Community: a balancing act�, Publius: The Journal of Federalism 23: 23-38.


Schaefer, G.F., Egeberg, M., Korez, S. and Trondal, J. (2000) �The experience of member state officials in EU committees: A report on initial findings of an empirical study�, Eipascope 2000/3: 29-35. Maastricht: European Institute of Public Administration.


Schattschneider, E.E. (1975) The Semisovereign People, Hinsdale: The Dryden Press.


Schmitter, P.C. (1996) �Examining the present Euro-polity with the help of past theories�, in G. Marks, F. W. Scharpf, P.C. Schmitter and W. Streeck (eds), Governing in the European Union. London: Sage.


Scott, W.R. (1981) Organizations. Rational, Natural, and Open Systems, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.


Selden, S.C. (1997) The Promise of Representative Bureaucracy. Diversity and Responsiveness in a Government Agency, Armonk: M.E. Sharpe.


Selznick, P. (1957) Leadership in Administration. A Sociological Interpretation, Berkeley: University of California Press.


Shore, C. (2000) Building Europe. The Cultural Politics of European Integration, London: Routledge.


Simon, H. A. (1965) Administrative Behavior, New York: The Free Press.


Smith, A. (2002) Why European Commissioners matter. Paper presented at the ARENA seminar, Oslo, January 29.


Spence, D. (1994) �Staff and personnel policy in the Commission�, in G. Edwards and D. Spence (eds), The European Commission, Harlow: Longman.


Sverdrup, U. (2000) Ambiguity and Adaptation. Europeanization of Administrative Instituions as Loosely Coupled Processes. Ph.D. dissertation, Oslo:ARENA.


Trondal, J. (2001a) Administrative Integration across Levels of Governance. Integration through Participation in EU Committees. Oslo: Department of Political Science.


Trondal J. (2001b) �Is there any social constructivist-institutionalist divide? Unpacking social mechanisms affecting representational roles among EU decision-makers�, Journal of European Public Policy 8:1-23.


Trondal, J. and Veggeland, F. (forthcoming) �Access, voice and loyalty. The representation of domestic civil servants in EU committees�, Journal of European Public Policy 10:


Wessels, W. (1998) �Comitology: fusion in action. Politico-administrative trends in the EU system�, Journal of European Public Policy 5: 209-34.