The influence of commissioners' characteristics on the EU's legislative process

Kira Killermann

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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This thesis set out to answer the research question How do Commissioners’ characteristics influence their behaviour and consequently the EU’s legislative process? Given the Commission’s central position in the EU’s system of governance as legislative agenda-setter, improving our understanding of individual Commissioners is very relevant. It was argued that the responsible Commissioner enjoys ministerial discretion (within limits) and that consequently the preferences of individual Commissioners matter. It was expected that a Commissioner’s nationality and membership in a political party are characteristics that have a decisive impact on how a Commissioner fulfils her tasks once in office.
The first part of the research question about the consequences of Commissioner characteristics for their behaviour was evaluated using the speeches as a directly observable behaviour. The text analysis method Wordfish was used to extract the positions Commissioners took in the individual speeches that were part of 62 Commissioner – Topics. The positions were traced over time to test whether a change in the Commissioner’s home country leads to a change of positioning. This was not the case. Instead, Commissioners changed positions they took in speeches on topics in which policy developments were observed. Likewise, in seven out of nine Commissioner –Topics expected to be affected by the financial crisis, the positions taken before the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy were indeed different from those taken afterwards.
For the second part of the research question about the impact on the legislative process, a more indirect measure was used. In this case, the voting records of the other legislative institutions – the Council and the EP, respectively – were analysed.
The analyses conducted in this thesis suggest that neither nationality nor party membership have a decisive impact on Commissioner behaviour in terms of speech-making. Still, these characteristics seem to impact inter-institutional relations in the EU’s legislative process. In their relation with the Council, a Commissioner’s nationality takes precedence over her partisanship. In their relation with the EP, national party competition seems to be continued. To answer the research question, nationality and party membership – two central characteristics of Commissioners as European politicians – do not seem to solely determine Commissioners’ behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Aarts, C.W.A.M., Supervisor
  • van der Kolk, Henk, Advisor
Award date23 Feb 2018
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-4501-3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2018


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