Fragmentation and policy coordination in the European Commission : the cases of audiovisual and telecommunications policy
This thesis analyses how the internal divisions occurring on the administrative level of the European Commission affect its capacity to prepare and propose legislation. It examines the consequences of the functional specialisation of different Directorates General (DCs) and the principles of mutual consultation on the ways in which the Commission sets policy agendas and formulates policies. Using the insights of the literature on policy coordination that perceives of decision-making processes in fragmented institutions as a process of coordination among semi-autonomous, but interdependent actors, the thesis analyses the interactions between different Commission DCs and the ways in which they seek to cope with conflict and competition. The research design is qualitative and uses process-tracing of major legislative initiatives taken by the European Commission in the telecommunications and the audiovisual sectors between the mid-1980s and the year 2000. The findings of the empirical analysis suggest that while conflict and debate are ever-present features of how the Commission operates, the extent to which Commission actors manage to settle or to overcome such conflict varies across policy sectors. Low fragmentation results in an 'informal' coordination scenario in which actors settle their disputes. Legislative policy-making is rapid and consistent and usually results in the proposition of legislation, In contrast, high fragmentation bears a tendency towards policy-making taking place in formal and more 'politicised' arenas in which actors multiply and find it more difficult to accommodate their differences. Hence, policy-making is slower, more prone to inconsistencies and less likely to result in the proposition of legislation. The insights gained on fragmentation and coordination in the European Commission alter our existing views of the Commission. Challenging the notion that the Commission fulfils a pre-defined function or agenda, I argue that the Commission is capable of playing different roles, depending on the extent to which it is internally divided.