Unveiling the anatomy of autonomy: dissecting actor-level independence in the European External Action Service

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Series Title
Series Details Vol.22, No.10, Decenber 2015, p1426-1447
Publication Date December 2015
ISSN 1350-1763
Content Type


Formulating and implementing public policy in Europe has historically been a core task of national administrations. This study suggests how this role has become challenged in a least likely policy field – foreign affairs. The ambition is to reassess the autonomy of the European External Action Service (EEAS) by examining actor-level autonomy of EEAS staff, while also suggesting key determinants thereof. Two conditions of actor-level autonomy are empirically illuminated: bureaucratic structure and the geographical location of the EEAS. Benefiting from two novel data sets which include a survey and élite interviews of EEAS officials, two empirical observations are highlighted. First, despite being an embryonic organization embedded in a field of core state powers, EEAS officials demonstrate substantial actor-level autonomy. Second, the behavioural autonomy of EEAS staff reflects primarily the supply of organizational capacities inside the EEAS, but much less the geographical location of staff. Actor-level autonomy is thus not only profound, but largely supplied by in-house organizational factors.

Source Link http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2015.1020833
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Countries / Regions