Analyzing the Effects of Policy Proposal Characteristics on the Use of Consultation by the European Commission during Policy Formulation

Bart Van Ballaert

When formulating policy proposals the European Commission frequently consults with stakeholders. Yet, it is unclear why the Commission consults these stakeholders in different ways - even varying on a proposal-by-proposal basis. This paper therefore analyzes the effects of policy proposal characteristics on the use of consultation by Commission DGs during policy formulation. The paper employs a different level of analysis than most research on Commission consultations, as it studies the entire range of consultation activities per formulation process. This focus on the entire consultation pattern builds on two observations: First, the lead DG disposes of many institutionalized instruments for consultation ranging from expert groups to conferences, seminars, online consultations etc. Second, a lead DG frequently uses several of these instruments for consultation during the formulation of the same policy proposal. Using new institutionalist theory, the paper shows that use of consultation varies between 'fixed use consultation' (which constrains interaction with stakeholders to information exchanges) and 'all-around use consultation' (which also allows for more profound forms of interaction with stakeholders, including problem-solving or consensus-building). The paper tests whether and to what degree 4 policy proposal characteristics (the complexity; newness; salience; and legal bindingness of a draft policy proposal) encourage the lead DG to use consultation in a more fixed or a more all-around way. The empirical analysis is based on a cross-sectional sample of 280 policy proposals that were drafted by four regulatory policy-making DGs (DG CLIMA, DG CNECT, DG ENV and DG MARKT) and adopted between 2010 and 2014. Data are collected via EUR-Lex, through in-depth inspection of policy proposals, impact assessment reports and other related documents as well as through official requests for access to confidential documents of the European Commission. OLS multiple regression analysis is used to analyze the data.

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