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Legislative Control of Powers Delegated to the Executive: The Case of the EU

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Abstract

How can legislators derive the benefits of delegation without unduly empowering the executive? This article investigates how this dilemma is met in the European Union (EU) political system where executive power is delegated to the Commission. The argument is that the European member states have found a unique solution. They install committees of member state representatives to monitor the EU Commission, the so-called comitology committees. However, the extent to which comitology committees are installed and their exact competence vary considerably across policy areas. This article uses a delegation perspective to understand this variation. An analysis of comitology provisions in 686 directives and regulations shows that institutional conflict and issue complexity, well-known factors from the delegation literature, are important predictors of comitology control of the Commission. The findings support one of the two prevailing images of comitology—comitology as a control mechanism, not deliberative democracy.

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