In This Review

The Engines of European Integration: Delegation, Agency, and Agenda Setting in the European Union
The Engines of European Integration: Delegation, Agency, and Agenda Setting in the European Union
By Mark A. Pollack
Oxford University Press, 2003, 380 pp

The subtitle warns the reader that this detailed and exhaustive study of the EU's institutions relies heavily on the literature and language of political science, specifically the models developed by the "rational choice" school. This does not always make the prose very readable, but the author's meticulous erudition and intelligent, sharp questions do make this volume probably the best account of an institutional system of extraordinary complexity. Pollack asks "why, and under what conditions, do states create, delegate powers, and allocate discretion to supranational agents" and "whether supranational institutions matter" in the politics of the EU. His is a highly detailed and nuanced investigation. Pollack concludes that the members of the EU have delegated discretionary powers to the European Commission and to the European Court of Justice over many issues in order to make the EU efficient and credible. Through six case studies, which examine how supranational agents have operated, he finds that the court has been remarkably active in pursuing a "federalist" agenda, against which the members are beginning to react, whereas the commission is carefully and closely monitored by the member states, especially in the sensitive areas of foreign affairs, taxation, and industrial relations. The European Parliament remains "an outlier." The case studies show how Europe's commission and court have promoted competition (within limits established by the states) and expanded the range of social regulation, with variable success. The last part of the book discusses the EU's "democratic deficit." As the independent European Central Bank and a host of new agencies work to assure efficiency in many domains, success is coming at the cost of democratic accountability -- a problem that Pollack also finds in the delegation of state powers to many international organizations. His conclusion is sensible -- and prudent: he expects only modest reforms, because of the diversity of the states' preferences and the unanimity requirement for treaty reforms. The constitution presided over by Valery Giscard d'Estaing vindicates these predictions.