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The politics of double delegation in the European Union


Michaelowa, Katharina; Reinsberg, Bernhard; Schneider, Christina J (2018). The politics of double delegation in the European Union. International Studies Quarterly, 62(4):821-833.

Abstract

Many international organizations channel financial contributions of their member countries through other international organizations to implement their programs and activities. In this context, the second step of the delegation chain is often costly and—at least seemingly—an easily avoidable duplication of a previous one. We examine the puzzling phenomenon of double delegation in the context of European aid. We argue that governments engage in double delegation in order to strengthen the role of the European Union (EU) as a multilateral donor agency. This leads to an increase in the flow of resources that, at times, exceeds what the Commission can effectively handle alone. Delegating aid to other organizations helps the Commission solve this capacity problem, but it also reduces its control over how the resources are spent. Consequently, the Commission must exercise judgment about which projects it delegates to other international organizations. Our quantitative and qualitative evidence shows that double delegation is more likely where the Commission's capacity as an aid donor is low and where EU members have no strategic interests at stake. We also show that the Commission tries to mitigate the loss of control by earmarking the delegated aid projects more tightly, notably when member preferences are heterogeneous. The results provide a new way of thinking about international delegation and bureaucratic politics in international organizations. Delegation problems may occur even if the interests between the principal and the agent align. Our approach highlights why this happens and how actors try to minimize the costs of this understudied type of agency slippage.

Abstract

Many international organizations channel financial contributions of their member countries through other international organizations to implement their programs and activities. In this context, the second step of the delegation chain is often costly and—at least seemingly—an easily avoidable duplication of a previous one. We examine the puzzling phenomenon of double delegation in the context of European aid. We argue that governments engage in double delegation in order to strengthen the role of the European Union (EU) as a multilateral donor agency. This leads to an increase in the flow of resources that, at times, exceeds what the Commission can effectively handle alone. Delegating aid to other organizations helps the Commission solve this capacity problem, but it also reduces its control over how the resources are spent. Consequently, the Commission must exercise judgment about which projects it delegates to other international organizations. Our quantitative and qualitative evidence shows that double delegation is more likely where the Commission's capacity as an aid donor is low and where EU members have no strategic interests at stake. We also show that the Commission tries to mitigate the loss of control by earmarking the delegated aid projects more tightly, notably when member preferences are heterogeneous. The results provide a new way of thinking about international delegation and bureaucratic politics in international organizations. Delegation problems may occur even if the interests between the principal and the agent align. Our approach highlights why this happens and how actors try to minimize the costs of this understudied type of agency slippage.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Social Sciences & Humanities > Political Science and International Relations
Uncontrolled Keywords:political science and international relations, sociology and political science
Language:English
Date:December 2018
Deposited On:08 Jan 2019 10:30
Last Modified:17 Mar 2021 15:17
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0020-8833
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqy034

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