Reassessing the Autonomy of the EEAS

In this study of the European External Action Service (EEAS) published in Journal of European Public Policy, Jarle Trondal and Thomas Henökl find substantial actor-level autonomy among EEAS officials. 


Formulating and implementing public policy in Europe has historically been a core task of national administrations. This study suggests how this role has become challenged in a least likely policy field – foreign affairs. The ambition is to reassess the autonomy of the European External Action Service (EEAS) by examining actor-level autonomy of EEAS staff, while also suggesting key determinants thereof. Two conditions of actor-level autonomy are empirically illuminated: bureaucratic structure and the geographical location of the EEAS.

Benefiting from two novel data sets which include a survey and élite interviews of EEAS officials, two empirical observations are highlighted. First, despite being an embryonic organization embedded in a field of core state powers, EEAS officials demonstrate substantial actor-level autonomy. Second, the behavioural autonomy of EEAS staff reflects primarily the supply of organizational capacities inside the EEAS, but much less the geographical location of staff. Actor-level autonomy is thus not only profound, but largely supplied by in-house organizational factors.

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Thomas Henökl and Jarle Trondal
Unveiling the Anatomy of Autonomy: Dissecting Actor-Level Independence in the European External Action Service

Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 22, no. 10, 2015, pp. 1426-47
DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2015.1020833

Published Sep. 14, 2015 10:21 AM - Last modified Sep. 14, 2015 10:21 AM