Images of Europe: How Commission Officials Conceive Their Institution's Role


  • This article draws on data collected as part of ‘The European Commission in Question’, funded by the United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council (grant RES-062-23-1188) and conducted by Michael Bauer, Renaud Dehousse, Liesbet Hooghe, Hussein Kassim (PI), John Peterson and Andrew Thompson. For further information, visit «». The online survey was administered by YouGov in September and October 2008. A sample of 4,621 policy administrators was drawn from a population of over 14,000. The sample was stratified to ensure proportionality by gender, age and nationality; officials from the ten new Member States were oversampled. The response rate was 41 per cent (1,901 responses). Iterative proportional fitting was used to create a weighted sample that reflects the population distributions by gender, age, nationality and DG location. Liesbet Hooghe is grateful for additional support from the VU Amsterdam and the EU Center for Excellence, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Council for Europeanists (Montreal), VU Amsterdam, Arena at the University of Oslo, Geneva University, the British Academy and the KFG-Transformative Power of Europe at the Free University of Berlin. I thank participants at these events for their comments and suggestions, and especially Ben Crum, Renaud Dehousse, Morten Egeberg, Julia Langbein, Nicolas Levrat, Gary Marks, Douglas Page, Jérôme Schäfer, Gijs Schumacher, Jarle Trondal, my long-time collaborators in the project, and two anonymous reviewers. Any errors or inconsistencies remain entirely my own responsibility.

Liesbet Hooghe, VU Amsterdam, Political Science, De Boelelaan 1081 HV, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands. e-mail:


How do Commission officials conceive the Commission's role in the European Union? Should the Commission be the government of Europe or the servant of Member States? Is there a third possibility – that of institutional pragmatism, whereby Commission and Member States share authority? This article lays out jurisdictional options and role conceptions adopted by Commission officials, and estimates their relative incidence using a 2008 large-scale survey among Commission officials (N = 1,901). There is a plurality of views, though within relatively narrow parameters. In explaining variation, national background shapes views more than professional background.