Project description

Democratization in the European Union and reglamentary decision-making: a quantitative analysis of EU comitology (Ref: CSO2013-43684-P)


The EU studies literature on comitology has often focused on the nature of the decision-making dynamics at work within executive committees. Debates on this topic include the question of whether the decision-making style prevailing in committees reproduces the institutional dynamic that drive Council negotiations during the legislative phase of the policy-making process. Moreover, what are the main features of executive committee governance? Is the decision-making style homogeneous across committees or are there visible differences depending on sectoral specificities or the procedures followed? Analysis of these issues has led to different interpretations. Drawing on sociological institutionalism, one part of the literature maintains that informal rules, collective deliberation and thus a consensus-oriented culture largely prevail and characterize the essence of the decision-making process .Another part of the literature, rooted in a rational institutionalist perspective, on the contrary considers that working methods at the executive stage of the policy process typically reproduce the intergovernmental bargaining dynamics that dominate the ministerial level. Some scholars have qualified these views by drawing attention to the changing nature of committees over time (Brandsma 2010; Dehousse 2003) and particularly to the contrast between the original institutional design of the committees, which is largely infused by intergovernmental precepts, and their actual functioning, which seems to leave more room for a logic of deliberation.


Our ambition in this research project is to shed new light on this question by analyzing committee voting records. This study aims at revisiting the question of the alleged consensual and deliberative nature of comitology proceedings on new conceptual and empirical bases. On the conceptual plane, we argue that it is important to separate the analysis of decision-making from that of outcomes: the fact that committees generally end up ratifying Commission proposals does not mean the latter are never contested. Instead of looking at the decisions eventually adopted by committees, we therefore propose to open the black box of committee decision-making and look at how the decisions in question were adopted in order to identify the behaviour of member state representatives whenever committees opine on Commission draft implementing measures. To this end, we aim at systematically scrutinizing and comparing the voting results of implementing decisions, covering all the policy domains and committees included in the Comitology Register of the Commission for the period 2008-2013 (N=8.300), and analyzing the factors that may influence dissensus. Compared to other studies on the behaviour of members states in committees, approach is innovative in the choice to deemphasize the final outcome of the comitology process –positive/negative/no opinion – and instead focus on the way the decision was reached by the relevant committee.