Better Regulation: Holding the European Commission Accountable?

VerfBlog, 2018/9/11, Special Issue: Holding the Juncker Commission Accountable

HEC Paris Research Paper No. LAW-2018-1316

6 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2018 Last revised: 21 Nov 2018

Date Written: October 7, 2018


This article examines what difference – if any – the renewed EU Better Regulation Agenda has made for the EU Commission in terms of its own accountability and policy outcomes. Emboldened by the Spitzenkandidaten process – which established for the first time a link between the outcome of the EU elections and the presidency of the EU Commission –, the Juncker Commission emerged as the most political yet. To shrug off the label of technocratic institution – historically insulated from citizens’ preferences –, the new Commission asked EU citizens to judge its operation by its ability ‘to deliver solutions to the big issues that cannot be addressed by the Member States alone’. By embracing such a panem et circenses approach to EU democracy – as such not too dissimilar from the Santer’s and Barroso’s previous administrations – the Juncker Commission raised new expectations. This is true not only in terms of output legitimacy – which was meant to become the privileged benchmark against which to measure the Commission’s success –, but also in terms of its own democratic and political accountability vis-à-vis EU citizens. Indeed, although unintelligible to the many, the Spitzenkandidaten logic entails that EU citizens contributed for the first time with their vote to shape the political orientation of this Commission and – as a result – could hold it accountable. While the very notion of political accountability is foreign to the EU constitutional setting – as citizens don’t have the possibility to replace the Commission if this does not meet their hopes –, the Juncker Commission has strived to frame its mandate as if such an oversight existed. This article concludes that at the very same time the Juncker Commission has been striving to develop its own, autonomous democratic credentials, its choice to embrace a set of well-defined institutional mechanisms that reward expert judgment over political adjudication appears at odds with its newly-acquired political nature.

Keywords: European Union, European Commission, Spitzenkandidaten, Juncker, Accountability, Transparency, Regulatory Impact Assessment, Regulatory Reform, Better Regulation, Regulatory Scrutiny Board, Impact Assessment, REFIT, CBA, Comparative Institutional Analysis

JEL Classification: K30, K32, K3

Suggested Citation

Alemanno, Alberto, Better Regulation: Holding the European Commission Accountable? (October 7, 2018). VerfBlog, 2018/9/11, Special Issue: Holding the Juncker Commission Accountable ; HEC Paris Research Paper No. LAW-2018-1316. Available at SSRN:

Alberto Alemanno (Contact Author)

HEC Paris - Tax & Law ( email )

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Jouy-en-Josas Cedex, 78351

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