An Institutional Perspective on Representation. Ambiguous representation in the European Commission

Jarle Trondal


This study explores the multiple representational roles evoked by an under-researched segment of the European Commission: temporary Commission officials. The article has a dual ambition: The first is to outline an institutional perspective on representation that seizes a middle-ground between intergovernmental and neo-functional notions of representation. The second ambition is to empirically illuminate this perspective inside the Commission. It is argued that temporary Commission officials offer a crucial test-bed of institutional dynamics of representation inside the Commission writ large. Based on survey and interview data on temporary hired officials in the Commission, this study supports an institutional perspective on representation in two ways. First, temporary Commission officials tend to evoke multiple representational roles. Secondly, the composite mix of representational roles evoked by these officials reflects the organisational boundaries and hierarchies embedding them. Representation within the Commission is indeed a balancing act that is considerably biased by the formal organisation of the Commission, the multiple organisational embeddedness of the staff, their degrees of organisational affiliation towards the Commission, their modes of interaction within the Commission, as well as their educational backgrounds.


European Commission, European officials, identity, intergovernmentalism, neo-functionalism, organisation theory, political science, socialization, supranationalism

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