The European Union (EU) has become increasingly visible and contested over the past decades. Several studies have shown that domestic pressure has made the EU’s ‘electorally connected’ institutions more responsive. Yet, we still know little about how politicisation has affected the Union’s non-majoritarian institutions. We address this question by focusing on agenda-setting, and ask whether and how domestic politics influences the prioritisation of legislative proposals by the European Commission. We argue that the Commission, as both a policy-seeker and a survival-driven bureaucracy, will respond to domestic issue salience and Euroscepticism, at party, mass and electoral level, through targeted performance and through aggregate restraint. Building on new data on the prioritisation of legislative proposals under the ordinary legislative procedure (1999-2019), our analysis shows that the Commission’s choice to prioritise is responsive to the salience of policy issues for Europe’s citizens. By contrast, our evidence suggests that governing parties’ issue salience does not drive, and Euroscepticism does not constrain, the Commission’s priority-setting. Our findings contribute to the literature on multi-level politics, shedding new light on the strategic responses of non-majoritarian institutions to the domestic politicisation of ‘Europe’.
- European Commission