Concluding early agreements in the EU: a double principal‐agent analysis of trilogue negotiations

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Series Details Vol.56, No.2, March 2018, p300-317
Publication Date March 2018
ISSN 0021-9886
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Applying a principal‐agent perspective on trilogue negotiations, this article examines how the rapporteur and the Presidency, as agents of respectively the European Parliament and the Council, are able to reach a deal with their fellow agent while avoiding an involuntary defection among their principals. Despite these intra‐ and inter‐institutional constraints, early agreements can be concluded because agents execute two parallel tasks on behalf of their principals: representing them inter‐institutionally and acting as the deal‐facilitator intra‐institutionally.

We identify three ways in which the agents can combine these two acts of delegation and conclude an early agreement: (1) creating a tied‐hand situation for themselves; (2) affecting the intra‐institutional coalition formation by bringing in allies from the other institution; and (3) actively searching for signals from the principals and the fellow agent on the zone of possible agreement. We illustrate these dynamics through a case study of the policy‐making process on the 2015 Decision on the Market Stability Reserve.

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