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Political Views of European Commission Officials

Since the 1990s I have been interested in the political views and role perceptions of European Commission officials. I have now data for the mid-1990s, early 2000s, and the late 2000s.

a) Mid 1990s. The datasets below constitute the bedrock of my book The European Commission and the Integration of Europe (Cambridge University Press 2002) and a series of articles in BJPS (Images of Europe), CPS (Supranationalists or Intergovernmentalists), JOP (Eurosocialists or Euromarketeers) and Governance (Consocialists or Weberians) (see my research page). The data were collected through personal interviews with 136 senior Commission officials (director-generals, deputy director-generals, directors) between 1995 and 1997. They show that Commission officials vary a great deal in how they think about Europe and their role in it, and this variation is to a large extent explained by socialization.

b) 2002. Some years after the Santer debacle I went back to the Commission to ask the same questions. I interviewed 97 officials, and found that the differences among senior Commission officials were a lot less structured than in the mid 1990s. A turbulent world had created turmoil inside the Commission, as my artide in International Organization (2005) explains.

c) September 2008-July 2009. Hussein Kassim, John Peterson, Michael Bauer, Renaud Dehousse, Andy Thompson, Sara Connolly and myself conducted a once-in-a-generation survey among all Commission officials. With 1901 responses, the survey ranges across a number of topics, including the impact of enlargement, administrative reform, the role of networks, and Commission officials’ political views. We followed up with 152 random one-to-one interviews. A co-authored book was published in June 2013 with Oxford University Press. While we share responsibility for all chapters, my involvement was strongest in chapter one (introduction) and chapter four (what officials believe). More information on the project is available on the project website.

I published an article on officials’ political views in the post-enlargement Commission in JCMS (2012) which finds that many Commission officials are caught between supranationalist and intergovernmentalist politicization and consciously choose a third way: institutional pragmatism.


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