Book: Political Leadership and the European Commission Presidency (Oxford University Press, November 2019)
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 analysed 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, and thus systematically analyses their agenda-setting, institutional mediation and public outreach performance over the entire course of their presidential terms.