The impact of the Directorates General on the EU legislative process

Anastasia Ershova (University of Konstanz)

The European Parliament and the Council rely heavily on the Commission’s Directorates General when it comes to policy implementation. Commission officials may have their own distinct policy preferences, hence the European Parliament and Council need to carefully tune the discretion they grant to Directorates at the implementation stage. In her article “The Watchdog or the Mandarin? Assessing the impact of the Directorates General on the EU legislative process” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Anastasia Ershova argues that the proximity of preferences among the Directorates themselves, as well as vis-à-vis the European Parliament and Council, provides the latter with clues regarding the Commission’s future behaviour on policy implementation. Anastasia shows that when preferences of lead Directorates General overlap with those of the European Parliament and Council, bureaucrats in charge of implementation are expected to steer policy closer to preferred outcomes of the EU’s legislating institutions and consequently enjoy wider discretionary limits. When it comes to advancing European integration, discord among the Commission and a less-integrationist lead Directorate incentivises the European Parliament and Council to grant the latter sufficient leeway to steer policy outcomes away from more extreme positions of the Commission. Anastasia’s contribution highlights the benefits of paying close attention to the motivations of individual Directorates General rather than treating the Commission as a unitary actor: “[I]nternal conflict and deviating preferences within this institution shape both policy proposals and the discretionary power available to the Commission at the implementation stage.”