The central thesis of this study is that it is both politically necessary and legally possible to delegate some of the Commission's regulatory authority to independent administrative entities (regulatory agencies).
This thesis is backed up by a comparative study of the American system of independent agencies and the emergence of similar bodies—but with a strictly executive and consultative role—in the European Union. It is lent further support by a dynamic legal/political approach in the Community system of separation of powers, delegation of responsibilities and institutional balance. Finally, it is strengthened by the possibility of introducing a battery of supervisory measures to ensure that such bodies stay within their remit, while at the same time safeguarding their independence, effectiveness and legitimacy.
The main contribution of this study is to launch a critique of the status quo as regards the organisation of regulatory authority within the European Union, highlighting the inflexibilities inherited from a bygone era and mapping out the legal paths to be followed in order to overcome that legacy—an urgent task if the Commission is to find its way out of its current crisis and the institutions as a whole are to reposition themselves in the decision-making process in a way that is consistent with the philosophy of the Treaties, while adapting to the obvious changes that have taken place since the 1950s.
Should the Commission take up the central thesis of our study in its work on European governance, all its departments will have to embark on an enormous strategic exercise: they will be called on to review their activities from this new perspective, to propose a detailed legal framework for implementing a new regulatory policy, and to convince the other institutions, the Member States and the European public of the need for and benefits of the new system.
Alongside the administrative reforms, this regulatory reform could provide a major professional challenge for the Commission's staff, which might enable them to dissipate the present climate of widespread despondency.