|Book Title||Comitology: Delegation of Power in the European Union and the Committee System|
|Book Author||Bergström, Carl Fredrik|
|Bibliographic Information||Oxford University Press, 2005, Pages : 391, $90.00, ISBN 0199280010|
Comitology. Delegation of Powers in the European Union and the Committee System. By Carl Fredrik Bergström. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 391. $90.00
Reviewed by Jürgen Neyer.
Ever heard about ‘comitology’? No? Don’t worry, you are part of some 99,9 per cent of the population who have both no idea of what comitology is nor ever will care. If you are an EU-citizen, however, then you should care. Comitology refers to a few hundred EU-committees which support and control the Commission in the implementation of its executive competences under Art. 202. Among their tasks are the fixing of the prices of EU-agricultural products and the negotiations of the details of most regulations. Nearly all of these committees are staffed by member state bureaucrats who work hard to influence the Commission by means of arguments and voting power in order to have their national positions being reflected as much as possible in the European legislative output.
Although comitology-committees did exist already back in the 1960s, they were hardly on the academic screen only ten years earlier than today. The shift in integration studies to analysing the everyday-governance of the EU instead of focusing only on the grand bargains has changed this negligence. Comitology today is viewed alternatively as evidence for the establishment of a European mega-bureaucracy, as the institutional underworld of the EU, the area where member state executives bypass both their national and the European parliament or as empirical support for the possibility of transforming bargaining into deliberative interaction. Everything is possible in theory, nothing is sure in practice.
One of the reasons for the disagreement is the fact that the state of the literature which deals with comitology is poor. No single monograph on comitology has been published in the last twenty years or so. Thus, the new book by Bergström, who is Head of Legal Research at the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies and Associate Professor of Law at Stockholm, is most welcome. It sets out to “explain how the system has developed and why” and “to provide an adequate answer to the question of what comitology really is”. And indeed, the book offers the best and most detailed account of the historical development of comitology, of the different positions of the European institutions, and the constitutional significance of comitology as a battle field between the European institutions. The historical record of comitology is told along a ‘contextual’ approach which emphasises the close nexus between politics and law. Consequently, the development of comitology is told as a story of a fourty years long and still ongoing power struggle among the European institutions.
Although interesting to read, the approach taken in the book does not help to meet the second claim of the book. If one looks for a critical assessment whether comitology should be interpreted as a mega-bureaucracy, as an inter-executive conspiracy or rather should be interpreted as deliberative supranationalism, then one will be disappointed. The major shortcoming of the book is that it is not integrated in the literature on European governance but deals with its subject matter as if it had hardly any relevance outside the inter-institutional hackling between the European institutions. The book, however, is highly recommended if one looks for a highly detailed account which focuses on historical and legal facts instead of theoretical reflections.