Christoph Ossege, European Regulatory Agencies in EU Decision‐Making. Between Expertise and Influence (Basingtoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). 227 pp. $79.99 (cloth), ISBN: 9781137517906; $110 (paper), ISBN: 9781137517890

Published date01 July 2018
Date01 July 2018
AuthorJaroslav Dvorak
656 Public Administration Review July | A ugus t 201 8
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 78, Iss. 4, pp. 656–657. © 2018 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
In the book European Regulatory Agencies in EU
Decision-Making, author Christoph Ossege
seeks to answer a question significant to the
contemporary system of public governance: is
expertise the driving force of decision making? For
his research, the author has chosen three European
Regulatory Agencies (ERAs) that operate in the
technical area of risk regulation (14). Ossege
investigates the conditions under which ERAs
operate in order to provide high-quality expert
advice for the European Commission (EC). More
specifically, he analyzes the scientific basis of agency
operation, autonomy from external influences, and
their influence on regulatory decision making. The
selection of the agencies is based on three criteria:
similarities in the tasks of agency regulation, their
powers, and the organization of internal management
of the agencies.
Apparently, there is a lack of knowledge in this
research field, especially in the analysis of relations
between expertise and autonomy. One should admit
that there is a deficit of this knowledge in the area of
European administrative governance. The author does
not specify whether this deficit is shown in a broader
perspective, for instance, in the United States. The
main research method is 39 semistructured expert
interviews with the main stakeholders.
In order to reach the aim of the research, the
author uses the same dominant definition of the
term expertise as other researchers and refers to it as
regulatory scientific expertise (26). This way, according
to Ossege, the issues that are not scientific are not
considered to be regulatory expertise in the ERA
context. Agencies are the representatives of expert and
scientific opinion; instead of democratizing scientific
knowledge, they legitimize themselves in the eyes of
epistemic actors. When discussing the autonomy of
agencies, the author maintains that this is “a relative
concept which describes the freedom of an agency
from unreasonable external influence, i.e. political
and economic interests and private cost-benefit
calculations” (27). In addition, the boundaries of
autonomy are narrowed to exclusively scientific ones
because other types of autonomy depend on other
political actors.
Both characteristics of agency performance
significant to the decision-making process (i.e.,
expertise and autonomy) are important for the
author’s research. On the one hand, the EC may
not follow the pieces of advice of the agencies. On
the other hand, the EC will face legal consequences
if it does not have scientific justification why the
agencies are not right. A very important question
arises on who is more scientific, the agency or
the EC. The same question of being scientific is
also important for the EU member states. The
representatives of the member states participate in
the activities of agency committees; however, they
may experience mistrust at the EU level if they do
not adhere to the scientific opinion of the agency.
This implies risk for the activity of agencies. As
Ossege notes, it is probable that a certain area
of regulation will obtain exclusive attention of
politicians. Then the agency will have to balance
among political, economic, and ideological
provisions (53).
In addition, the author maintains that expert capacity
of agencies is concentrated in scientific committees,
which are the main centers of decision making (65).
Ossege clearly and consistently explains how an agency
employs external experts and how the variety of
regulatory skills manifests in the member states. It is
admitted that the experts of larger EU member states
perform more work; meanwhile, it is more difficult for
small states, even though some of them also perform a
substantial part of the expertise. These circumstances
may be useful for expert decision making because
when the expert audience is large, limited participation
is welcomed (69). The analysis of agency behavior has
been performed reductively due to political salience.
Reviewed by: Jaroslav Dvorak
Klaipeda University
Christoph Ossege, European Regulatory Agencies in EU
Decision-Making. Between Expertise and Influence (Basingtoke:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). 227 pp. $79.99 (cloth),
ISBN: 9781137517906; $110 (paper), ISBN: 9781137517890
Jaroslav Dvorak is associate professor
and head of the department of public
administration and social geography at
Klaipeda University in Lithuania. He is also
visiting researcher at Uppsala University in
Sweden, Institute of Russian and Eurasian
studies. His work focuses on evaluation of
capacity building in public administration,
public service delivery models and
alternatives, and prevention of frauds in
local governments.

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