The European Union’s role in the G8: a principal-agent perspective

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Series Details Vol.18, No.3, April 2011, p420-442
Publication Date April 2011
ISSN 1350-1763
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This article examines the role of the European Union (EU) in the Group of Eight (G8) framework. We suggest that the EU in the G8 constitutes an unusual form of delegation because the principal-agent (PA) relationship is characterized by considerable degrees of informality and ambiguity. The main argument advanced in this article is that the European Commission, the agent, despite being structurally disadvantaged at the outset, managed to emancipate itself within the G8 over time. This process of agent emancipation has been reinforced, above all, by the flexibility and informality of the G8, the evolving European integration process, and the growing Commission capabilities, standing and entrepreneurship.

Although the Commission has managed to move considerably beyond the original PA design intended by the principals, member states' incentives to rely on the Commission also increased over time. We argue that the Commission itself was able to manipulate these incentives, which is most evident in the sub-case of the Commission's successful quest for attaining the Western aid co-ordination mandate for Central and Eastern Europe.

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