Faithful agent or independent actor? The European Commission in the external dimension of EU Energy Policy
Energy policy in the European Union (EU) is a patchwork of diverging interests and preferences. While the European Commission pushes for a common energy policy, Member States are responsible for their own separate energy policies. These divergences in interests and preferences might create a conflict situation between the Commission and Member States. This thesis explores the Commission’s behaviour vis-à-vis the Member States, investigating the conditions under which the Commission is likely to try to deviate from Member States’ preferences in the external dimension of the EU internal energy market. Adopting a Principal-Agent Model (PAM), this thesis conceptualizes the Member States as principals and the Commission as their agent. A qualitative case study approach and process-tracing method are applied to appreciate the variety of preferences of the actors involved, and provide a means to study the various shades of post-delegation agent’s behaviour. This thesis looks at four in-depth case studies: 1) Decision 994/2012 on establishing an information exchange mechanism with regard to intergovernmental agreements between Member States and third countries in the field of energy; 2) Directive 2009/73/EC on common rules for the internal market in gas; 3) Energy Community Treaty; and 4) Energy Charter Treaty. These were selected based on their relevance to the research question. Findings suggest that two factors are likely to affect the Commission’s deviation from Member States’ preferences: a) the preference alignment among the principals and b) the preference alignment between the principals and the agent. This thesis suggests that when the preferences between the agent and the principals are heterogeneous, the agent is more likely to deviate from the preferences of the principals. This thesis also suggests that the preference alignment among the principals only has a secondary effect on the agent’s deviation. Finally, this research contributes to the further development of the PAM offering a possible categorisation of post-delegation agent’s behaviour going beyond the dichotomy of deviation and non-deviation.