The European Community features a number of important supranational institutions, including the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament. The nature and extent of supranational autonomy, however, is hotly disputed within the existing literature on European integration, which depicts the Commission alternately as the obedient servant of the member states, or as a runaway Eurocracy independent of any meaningful member state oversight. In this paper, I apply the insights of rational choice institutionalist theory to the problem of supranational autonomy, examining the types of functions that member state "principals" are likely to delegate to supranational "agents"; the extent to which supranational agents are able to carry out these functions independent of member state control; and the ability of supranational institutions to set the substantive and procedural agenda of the member states in subsequent policymaking. The paper then concludes by generating a number of spe cific hypotheses about delegation, agency and agenda setting, and discussing how researchers might go about testing such hypotheses.
Working Paper 95–10, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, 1995.