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When the Cat’s away the Mice Will Play. Can a Principal-agent Approach Explain EU External Relations in the Energy Sector?

Francesca Batzella

This paper’s aim is to test the explanatory power of the Principal Agent Model of Delegation (PAM) in giving a better understanding of the EU external relations in the energy sector. The model allows to investigate the particular form of delegation of power occurring between EU member governments (principals) and supranational organisations (agents). Assuming that principals and agents have different interests and that the former cannot have a complete control on the latter, the PAM allows to analyse conflicts between these actors and side effects of delegation known as “agency losses” such as slippage and shirking. The starting assumption of this research is that the Commission is claiming a major role in a sector that has always been guarded jealously by National Governments. Thus, this piece of work, by proposing an innovative application of the model, wishes to assess whether the Commission is shirking or slipping (or both) in seeking to build an external dimension of its energy policy. In doing this, this study aims also to contribute to the PAM more broadly, shedding a light on the distinction of these two kinds of agency losses, which is not always sharp in the literature.

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