Delegation and Accountability in European Integration

Special issue of the Journal of Legislative Studies

By Torbjörn Bergman & Erik Damgaard (eds.)

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The European Union introduces agency problems between the national parliamentary chain and supranational institutions. We address these concerns in an edited volume in which the empirical focus is on the five Scandinavian (or Nordic) countries (Bergman and Damgaard, 2000). A number of concrete findings are emphasized in "Delegation and Accountability in European Integration: The Nordic Parliamentary Democracies and the European Union." One way in which member states' parliaments have adjusted to integration is by making use of new control instruments such as European affairs committees for consultation with, and scrutiny of the government. Another finding is that, relative to the foreign ministry, the prime minister and the ministers most involved in EU affairs have increased their power in foreign and European affairs.

From a delegation and accountability perspective, there is also reason to be concerned about how national governments can control the numerous national civil servants that serve in EU working groups and the so-called 'comitology' of the European Union. All governments have worked out new systems for domestic co-ordination between government officials at the apex of ministries, but they have little oversight over the next and lower echelons of civil servants. Perhaps the most striking finding is the similarity of observed impact between on the one hand the three member states, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, and on the other Norway and Iceland, which cooperate with the EU through the European Economic Agreement (EEA). The EEA member states often find themselves obliged to implement the results of a decision-making process that they have a hard time influencing. Given this, the EU's often discussed 'democratic deficit' can be thought of as most severe among the EEA member states.