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Agencies in the European Union Area of Freedom, Security and Justice: Frontex, Europol and Eurojust

Final Report Summary - AFSJ-AGENCIES (Agencies in the European Union area of freedom, security and justice: Frontex, Europol and Eurojust)

Background and aims of the research project

This project examined the role of agencies in the European Union (EU) area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) - an umbrella term for police and judicial cooperation, border management, asylum and migration, and counter-terrorism. This project provided crucial new insights into several important aspects of the work of European agencies in the AFSJ. It is therefore of value for those academics interested in the strengthening of cross-disciplinary ties between the field of EU studies and international relations / security studies, criminology and law. The rapid development of the AFSJ in recent years has led to an expansion of the scholarly literature on this topic (see Balzacq and Carrera, 2005, 2006; Bures, 2006; Bossong, 2008; Boswell, 2003, 2007; Friedrichs, 2005; Guild, 2002; Geddes, 2000; Guiraudon, 2000; Kaunert, 2007, 2009; Mitsilegas, Monar and Rees, 2003; Occhipinti, 2003). However, with its focus on policy outputs and the role of the main EU institutions, this literature has tended to largely overlook 'agencies' (in the broad sense) in the AFSJ, with the recent exception of the preparatory groundwork conducted by Bigo (2008).

Furthermore, the existing literature has tended to privilege a formal account of agencies. This means that the role of agencies in practice has remained vastly under-researched in the AFSJ. This is very problematic given the increasing importance of both the AFSJ in the EU and the role of these agencies within the AFSJ.

Overview of research findings

The research project has generated significant new knowledge on the AFSJ, and the role of agencies within this policy area, which have been published or are to be published in the near future in peer-reviewed publications. By examining the literature on delegation and (European) agencies, the project has identified possible causes and consequences of the 'agencification' of the AFSJ, based on the rational choice 'principal-agent' (P-A) framework, where 'principals' (EU Member States and institutions) delegate specific powers to 'agents' (here, the agencies) (Thatcher and Stone Sweet 2002; Kelemen 2002; Pollack 2003; Dehousse 2008). The P-A approach highlights various possible - and non-exclusive - causes of delegation of certain tasks to agencies, in particular:

(1) substantive uncertainty (or asymmetry of information) (Epstein and O'Halloran 1999), which gives rise to a need for expertise;
(2) political uncertainty (or 'credibility of commitment' problem) to which a depoliticised body is a functional solution (Dehousse 1997; Majone 1996, 1997);
(3) lack of cooperation, which calls for increased coordination and information-sharing (Magnette 2005);
(4) power struggles amongst Member States and institutions (Kelemen 2002; Roederer-Rynning and Daugbjerg 2010); and
(5) 'blame-shifting' in cases of policies with specific characteristics, such as concentrated benefits and widely dispersed costs (Fiorina 1982).

These causes are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as some of them may better explain the delegation of some tasks or better account for delegation patterns at a specific time. The project has also identified various possible, non-exclusive consequences of the delegation of certain tasks to an agency, including:

(1) the impact on the legitimacy of policies (Shapiro 1997; Vibert 2007);
(2) difficulties in maintaining a balance between the autonomy of the agency and its accountability both formally (de jure) and informally (de facto) in the face of possible 'bureaucratic drifts' that principals seek to prevent through various ex ante and ex post controls (Kelemen 2002; Thatcher 2002; Groenleer 2009; Busuioc 2010; Bovens et al. 2010; Wonka and Rittberger 2010; Busuioc et al. 2012);
(3) coordination issues, as the creation of new autonomous bodies may contribute to the fragmentation of a policy area (Williams 2005; Shapiro 1997);
(4) the evolving interactions between the international or European agencies and the agencies or bureaucratic structures dealing with these tasks at the national level (Barbieri 2006; Centre de Recherches Administratives 2008; Barbieri and Ongaro 2008); and
(5) the evolving interactions between the agency and corresponding transgovernmental networks, that is, whether the agency replaces, competes with or is empowered by an existing network in the policy area ('agencification of networks', 'agencified networks' or 'networked agency') (Coen and Thatcher 2008; Levi-Faur 2011; Klijn 2008).

Also, and this constitutes one of the theoretical innovations of this project, it is argued here that it is beneficial to deepen the analysis of the causes of delegation by considering the 'meta-cause', which underpins it, that is, 'interest realisation'. In order for competences to be delegated from the Member State level to the EU level, Member States have to be convinced that their interests would be better realised at the EU level and agree to such a move. Rational choice approaches 'black-box' the interests of actors and take them as a given. In contrast, it is argued that, in order to attain a more sophisticated understanding of the delegation of some tasks to European agencies, it is actually necessary to examine Member State preferences, and thus interest formation - in other words, how Member States come to define their interests. IR and foreign security literature provides important insights in that respect. In contrast to some scholars like Hoffmann (1966) who predicted that the 'logic of diversity' would put a brake on European integration in 'high politics' matters such as internal security, it can be shown that, without leading to the abolition of national interests, a European interest in the AFSJ is being constructed. EU Member States are located in a complex set of European interdependencies, institutions and structures and this alters their behaviour (Ginsberg 2001; Smith 2004; see also Howorth 2011). Within the EU, this is established in the social interactions of EU Member States in the institutionalised structures of the EU and in the interaction with the EU institutions and agencies. Drawing upon insights from international relations, public policy and European studies, a P-A framework has been developed, which draws upon interest formation amongst member states in order to analyse delegation of tasks to EU agencies.

Relevance and socio-economic impact of the project

The results derived from the research project are both extremely relevant and timely for several reasons. First of all Europol, Eurojust and Frontex are often argued to be at the forefront of the EU's response to new security threats, in particular international terrorism and irregular migration at the EU's borders. The 'EU acquis' on the AFSJ has grown significantly over the last years, which confirms the choice made by the Member States to involve these EU agencies increasingly in this area. A majority of Union citizens, according to Eurobarometer (1997 - 2012) periodic surveys, increasingly feel that EU-level actions have an added value compared to those taken solely at a national level and two thirds of citizens support EU-level actions in the fight against organised crime, irregular migration and terrorism. Only 18 % consider that EU-level actions have had no extra benefit. Consequently, the results derived from the project are crucial and very timely. These three agencies had previously not been examined yet, despite the empirical importance and urgency. It is important to note that the policies at the core of the project (terrorism and irregular migration) have been recurrently identified by the European Commission as a priority for research. For example, they have been identified as some of the complex challenges faced by the EU and its citizens and requiring in-depth understanding in the 'Cooperation' work programme for socio-economic sciences and the humanities of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Thus, the project has generated significant policy-relevant findings, which are of interest to policy-makers dealing with Europol, Frontex and Eurojust and / or agency creation in any policy field. The detailed analysis of perceptions of negotiators in the EU policy-making is of profound benefit for representatives of the EU Member States' diplomatic and home affairs establishment. The results also provide further insights into the policy-making of the most dynamic policy area of the EU, and the workings of European institutions. This has clear practical relevance for EU officials and national officials working for national ministries and embassies in Brussels.