International Challenges and Perspectives
Edited by Jeffrey A. Raffel, Peter Leisink and Anthony E. Middlebrooks
Chapter 7: Political and Administrative Leadership in a Reinvented European Commission
* Anchrit Wille INTRODUCTION ‘Commission bureaucrats are getting too powerful’ stated European Commission vice-president Gunter Verheugen in an interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung in October 2006.1 The German commissioner voiced unprecedented criticism of high-ranking Commission bureaucrats for their hunger for power in the EU executive, the result of which was a ‘permanent power struggle between commissioners and high ranking bureaucrats. Some of them think: the commissioner is gone after five years and so he is just a squatter, but I’m sticking around . . . The most important political task of the 25 commissioners is controlling this apparatus.’ In the dramaturgy of European politics bureaucrats are commonly perceived as powerful. As always there may be an element of truth in such a caricature. The basic notion that politicians choose policies and bureaucrats execute them loyally is overly simple. The boundary between decision and execution is a grey area and in many cases bureaucrats do much more than ‘executing.’ The potential strain between the roles of politicians and bureaucrats and their boundaries has been a key concern of political analysts since Max Weber and Woodrow Wilson (Alesina and Tabellini 2003). Even though there is a general idea that this ‘frontier’ is an important battle zone, there appears, apart from supporting anecdotes, little systematic empirical evidence as to what is taking place along these borderlines. In this chapter I want to deal with this dearth by exploring the partnership between politics and administration at the helm of the European Commission. The European Commission – often compared...
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