National actors in international organizations: the case of the European Commission

Robert Thomson

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54 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the conditions under which the policy positions of an international organization correspond to the positions of relevant national actors. The commission of the European Union (EU) is often portrayed as an autonomous supranational actor, insulated from national interests. Recent analyses question this view, arguing that the commission is an agent in a principal–agent relationship with member states. The author formulates hypotheses on the conditions under which commissioners’ nationalities affect the relative level of agreement between the commission and different member states’ positions. The hypotheses are tested with more than 2,000 observations relating to 70 controversial proposals for legislation introduced by the commission from 1996 to 2000. In line with one of the hypotheses, under qualified majority voting in the council, there is relatively high agreement between the commission’s positions and the positions of the home member states of the commissioners primarily responsible for drafting the legislative proposals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-192
Number of pages24
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jan 2008
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • European Union
  • European Commission
  • Council of Ministers
  • commissioners
  • legislative decision making


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