From the Sidelines to Center Stage: Sidekick No More? The European Commission in Justice and Home Affairs
Ucarer, Emek M.
Cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) – an issue area that includes matters of asylum, immigration, police and judicial cooperation – is a relatively new policy arena for the European Union. The level and quality of the collective thinking on these issues have improved since the mid-1980s. JHA cooperation was formally endorsed in Maastricht and revisited during the 1996 IGC, resulting in new institutional frameworks within which discussions now occur. Throughout this period, the European Commission has seen its involvement in the decision-making enhanced. Its efforts as an actor began with a humble Task Force with which the Commission attempted to steer EU's policies on asylum and immigration, as well as police and judicial cooperation. After Amsterdam, and particularly as a result of the Commission's restructuring following the resignation of the Santer Commission, the Commission's institutional capacities as well as its charge vis-à-vis the treaties has changed quite remarkably. This paper reviews the Commission's role in JHA as an institutional actor and will evaluate its agency and emerging autonomy in these fields. It argues that the Commission has a stronger constitutional and institutional basis from which to work, bolstered by the increased propensity by member states to delegate to the Commission and enhanced by the creation of the Directorate General for Justice and Home Affairs. While improvements in the Commission's position vis-à-vis the immediate aftermath of Maastricht are visible, challenges remain nonetheless which constrain the Commission’s ability to act as a “competence-maximizing” institution with formal agenda-setting powers.
agency theory; Amsterdam Treaty; asylum policy; European Commission; Europeanization; harmonisation; immigration policy; institutionalism; leadership; Maastricht Treaty; Schengen; supranationalism; Third Pillar; political science
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