• 2019

    Political Leadership and the European Commission Presidency

    Oxford University Press (November 2019)


This excellent book addresses the important but under-researched topic of the political leadership of European Commission Presidents. Resting on a systematic and comparative analysis and based on a convincing and clearly explained analytical framework, Müller seeks to unpack what really determines the (successful) leadership performance of Commission Presidents.

-Michelle Cini, Professor of European Politics, University of Bristol


This is an excellent and timely book. The scholarship is first-rate; the subject matter highly topical; and the writing refreshingly crisp. The author has mastered a wealth of material on political leadership in general and EU leadership in particular, and strikes a fine balance between theory and practice. Political Leadership and the European Commission Presidency should be essential reading for scholars and students of EU governance, especially at this crucial stage of the EU’s development.

-Desmond Dinan, Professor of Public Policy and Jean Monnet Professor Ad Personam, George Mason University


This path-breaking book examines the political leadership of European Commission presidents. Despite intrinsic weaknesses in the office, Müller shows convincingly how and when various presidents are more or less effective in their leadership, examining their personal dispositions, the institutional structure and the specific circumstances in which these presidents serve their term. This study will prove to be the leading ‘go-to’ work on political leadership of Commission presidents.

-Amy Verdun, Professor of European Politics and Political Economy, Leiden University, and Jean Monnet Chair Ad Personam, University of Victoria

Short Synopsis

When talking about the European Union, political leadership is certainly not at the forefront of people’s minds. The EU’s pluralistic, non-hierarchical system of multi-level governance lacks clear structures of both government and opposition. Hence, according to the EU treaties the presidency of the European Commission is not explicitly expected to exercise political leadership. However, this role cannot effectively be exercised without any demonstration of such leadership due to its plethora of leadership functions.

Examining this curious peculiarity of strong political demands, weak institutional powers, and need for political leadership, the proposed book systematically analyses the political leadership performance of the presidents of the European Commission throughout the process of European integration. The basic argument is that Commission presidents do not only matter in the process of European integration, but that their impact varies according to how the different incumbents deal with the institutional structure and the situational circumstances, and thus their strategic choices at hand.

The research question explored in this book thus is what makes political leadership in European governance successful and to what extent (and why) do Commission presidents differ in their leadership performance? By addressing this question, the book departs from existing research on EU leadership, which has to date analyzed either the EU’s institutional structure and its potential for leadership, or has provided selective evidence from single- and cross-case studies of Commission presidents, mainly focusing on most recent incumbents.

This book conceptualizes political leadership of the presidents of the European Commission as a performance. It systematically analyzes their agenda-setting, institutional mediation and public outreach performance over the entire course of their presidential terms.

A complete list of given codes as well as the interview questionnaire for this study can be accessed upon request.

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