Is the European Commission really in decline?

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Series Details Vol.54, No.5, September 2016, p1199–1215
Publication Date September 2016
ISSN 0021-9886
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In the academic debate on the relative powers and influence of the EU institutions, it has become common to suggest – especially in the case of advocates of the ‘new intergovernmentalism’ – that the European Commission is in decline.

In this article we show that while in some limited respects this is indeed the case, the Commission's overall position in the EU system is not one of having become a weaker institutional actor. The extent of the losses of its powers and influence tends to be exaggerated, while in some aspects its powers and influence have actually been strengthened. We show this by focusing on three of the Commission's core functions – agenda-setter, legislative actor and executive – all of which are widely portrayed as being in decline. We incorporate into our analysis both the formal and informal resources available to the Commission in exercising the functions.

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