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The Logic of Access to European Commission Expert Groups: Assessing the Delay of the eCall Project

GPS, Vol. 7 No. 2, (2011)

This paper argues that the “logic of access” theory drawn up by Pieter Bouwen (2002) can be applied to expert groups set up by the European Commission. Before the hypothesis is tested in a case study, the theory is extended in two ways. Whereas Bouwen focuses on the exchange channels that business interests choose to gain access to the different institutions, this paper concentrates on the needs of the European institutions during the selection process of their preferred negotiation partners. Secondly, it is ex-tended to contain a dynamic element – whereas Bouwen concentrates on a single choice that business interests make at the onset of a campaign, it argues that changed information needs of the European Commission can lead to changes in negotiation partners – also during a negotiation process.
The logic of access theory is applied in a case study which focuses on the negotiations surrounding the pan-European in-vehicle emergency call eCall. It has been negotiated within the framework of three successive ex-pert groups under the auspices of the Information Society and Media Directorate General since 2003. Focus of the case study analysis will be to examine the reasons for the slow progress in the negotiations.
The analysis of the case study is divided in two stages: Firstly, the insti-tutional structures of the negotiation panels and the stakeholders’ positions are analysed to rule out that they might influence the European Commission’s selection of negotiation partners and to identify the reasons for the slow progress in said negotiations. For these purposes the Actor-centred Institutionalism framework (Scharpf 2000) is employed. The analysis brings to light that those stakeholders that had selected eCall in the first place ceased to support it actively in the subsequent implementation panels. This shift in positions was paralleled with a shift of the private interest representation from individual companies to organised representation through the respective European industry associations. Additionally, weak institutional governance rules during the negotiation phase slowed down the negotiation pace. The second step then analyses the shift from individual interest representation to organised interest representation employing Bouwen’s frame-work.

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