Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

Parlementary control of independent departmental agencies

Boekcover  The Political Accountability of EU agencies

In the period 2008-2013 the Montesquieu Institute (MI) funded a comparative research on the parlementary control of the independent departmental agencies. The research was primarily carried out by the University of Maastricht.

The number of independent departmental agencies is rapidly increasing within the EU member states as well as within the European Union itself. These agencies are active in a number of different fields, one of which being the public arena, and the work of these agencies is often highly dependant on their independence.

In some European countries the lack of accountability is a problem for the departmental agencies. In a number of European parlementary democracies the influence of the parlement in controlling the agencies is limited to a check through the ministerial responsibilities, which are often limited themselves. How do the democratic checks on these independent agencies actually work? And how can the parlements realise democratic controls? This research will deal with these kinds of questions.

In order to answer these a number of case studies will be carried out, that is the Netherlands, Sweden, the United State and the European Union. Conclusions will be drawn based on a comparative analysis of the different case studies.

This PHD project was conducted by Mira Scholten and published in 2014.



The delegation of public authority to EU independent regulatory agencies raises the question of such agencies' political accountability. So far this subject has been understudied largely due to the fact that most EU agencies have been entrusted with formally weak powers. In the recent years, however, the number, de facto influence as well as de jure powers of EU agencies have grown considerably. There are 35 EU agencies, which are no longer merely information-gathering assistants of the Commission and national authorities; they may enjoy decision-making and supervisory powers.

This book offers an in-depth analysis of the laws and practices of the political accountability arrangements of all 35 EU agencies. An important added value of this study is that it compares the EU situation with a jurisdiction that has more than a century-long history concerning the matter at stake, the US. The US experience offers valuable lessons to consider for the EU, sends warning signals in relation to some experiences that would be better avoided, and demonstrates similar concerns that indicate the fundamental character of certain questions in the field of the political accountability of independent regulatory agencies.

In light of the ongoing reform on EU agencies' creation and operation at the EU level, this book concludes with a few recommendations for the EU representative institutions on how the political accountability of EU agencies should be adjusted.

Miroslava Scholten is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Utrecht Centre for Shared Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (RENFORCE) and at the Europa Institute, Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University.