Is the European Commission Really in Decline?

17 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2016

See all articles by Neill Nugent

Neill Nugent

Manchester Metropolitan University

Mark Rhinard

Stockholm University; Utrikespolitiska Institutet - Swedish Institute of International Affairs

Date Written: September 2016


In the academic debate on the relative powers and influence of the EU institutions, it has become common to suggest – especially in the case of advocates of the ‘new intergovernmentalism’ – that the European Commission is in decline. In this article we show that while in some limited respects this is indeed the case, the Commission's overall position in the EU system is not one of having become a weaker institutional actor. The extent of the losses of its powers and influence tends to be exaggerated, while in some aspects its powers and influence have actually been strengthened. We show this by focusing on three of the Commission's core functions – agenda‐setter, legislative actor and executive – all of which are widely portrayed as being in decline. We incorporate into our analysis both the formal and informal resources available to the Commission in exercising the functions.

Keywords: agenda‐setting, European Commission, European Union, executive tasks, legislative functions, supranational

Suggested Citation

Nugent, Neill and Rhinard, Mark, Is the European Commission Really in Decline? (September 2016). JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol. 54, Issue 5, pp. 1199-1215, 2016. Available at SSRN: or

Neill Nugent (Contact Author)

Manchester Metropolitan University ( email )

All Saints
Manchester, M15 6BH
United Kingdom

Mark Rhinard

Stockholm University ( email )

Universitetsvägen 10
Stockholm, Stockholm SE-106 91

Utrikespolitiska Institutet - Swedish Institute of International Affairs ( email )

Drottning Kristinas väg 37
P.O. Box 27035
Stockholm, 102 51
+46 76 208 1395 (Phone)

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