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Working Paper 38
The European Commission in the 21st Century. Core Beliefs on EU Governance
What lives in the European Commission at the beginning of the 21st Century? This paper charts Commission officials’ views on the governance, ideological direction, and policy scope of the European Union, employing data from a large survey conducted in Autumn 2008. First, the Commission is not a hothouse for supranationalism. True, supporters of a supranational Union with the College of Commissioners as the government of Europe and member states in the back seat are the largest minority, but they are outnumbered two-to-one by state-centric, pragmatist, and ambivalent officials. There are striking differences in distribution by nationality, gender, and department. Second, where do Commission officials stand on ideology? The answer is that the Commission is broadly representative of European societies, at least on traditional economic left/right issues, though decidedly more socio-liberal. Ideological views are not randomly distributed across services, with social DGs significantly more social-democratic than DGs handling market integration. Officials from new member states are more market-liberal than their ‘western’ colleagues. Finally, are Commission officials indeed bureau-maximizers? We find that, on the whole, Commission officials want more EU authority in the eleven policy areas that we asked them to evaluate, but their desire to centralize is selective and measured. It seems driven by functional imperatives – centralization where scale economies can be reaped – and by values and ideology rather than by a generalized preference for maximal Commission power. In short, the bureaucratic politics argument has been overstated.