Date01 September 2016
Published date01 September 2016
doi: 10.1111/padm.12250
Do international organizations affect the views of the people who work for them? Although increas-
ingly sophisticated methods have been used to address this question, disagreement persists about
whether the beliefs of staff are formed before they join, after they enter the institution, or are shaped
by instrumental calculation. Drawing on an original dataset based on the rst fully representative
survey of the European Commission’s workforce, this article breaksnew ground by putting different
denitions of ‘supranationalism’ to the test and by capturing multiple ways in which individuals
may be affected by the experience of working for the organization. For the rst time, it demonstrates
that commitment to ‘supranationalism’ varies between Commission staff groupings, that the inu-
ences on belief vary with the measure of ‘supranationalism’ used, and that both post-recruitment
experience and pre-recruitment roles play a part in shaping beliefs.
What bureaucrats believe and what shapes their beliefs have been long-standing preoccu-
pations in the practice and the study of public administration. In this context, international
civil servants have commanded particular attention. In a literature spanning several dis-
ciplinary elds (see Pollack 1998; Checkel 2005; Scully 2005), interest has focused on the
extent to which staff express the organizational values embodied by their institutions.
In the case of the European Union (EU), the socializing power of the European Commis-
sion over its staff went unquestioned for four decades. It was condently asserted not only
that the Commission would be populated by pro-Europeans, eager to expand EU compe-
tencies and therefore their own power, but that their zealous pro-Europeanism would be
contagious. Indeed, successive versions of neofunctionalism, a classic theory of European
integration, identied the communication by Commission ofcials of supranational val-
ues to national political and economic elites as a key dynamic of that process (Haas 1958,
p. 17; Lindberg 1963, p. 84).
These assumptions were rst challenged in the late 1990s, conrmed in later work
(Hooghe 2002, 2005; Dehousse and Thompson 2012; Kassim et al. 2013, ch. 4), when
empirical investigation revealed variations in the views held by Commission staff
(Hooghe 1999a, 1999b). Three explanations accounting for the views held by Commis-
sion ofcials emerged in the new wave of literature that followed Hooghe’s landmark
research. According to the rst school, which quickly became the dominant wisdom, the
pre-recruitment experience of staff is decisive (Hooghe 1999a, 1999b, 2002, 2005; Bes 2013).
The values of the individuals who form its workforce are formed within national envi-
ronments before they ever enter the Commission. A second perspective contests the rst
and argues, on the contrary, that post-recruitment experience – specically, the working
environment in the Commission – does have an impact on the loyalties of staff (Trondal
2006, 2007). For the third, inspired by public choice accounts, employee preferences are
shaped by self-interest (Bauer 2012; Kassim et al. 2013, ch. 4). In addition, several hybrid
Sara Connolly is at the Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia, UK. Hussein Kassim is at the School of
Politics, Philosophy,Language and Communication, University of East Anglia, UK.
Public Administration Vol.94, No. 3, 2016 (717–737)
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
approaches combine elements of these three perspectives. Murdoch and Geys (2012), for
example, link behavioural role criteria from the second to the instrumental cost–benet
calculation of the third.
Despite the important insights it offers, however, the new wave of scholarship exhibits
three major shortcomings. The rst concerns the dependent variable. Authors take com-
mitment to ‘supranationalism’ as the assumed outcome of socialization in the Commission
and an indicator of the Commission’s socializing power. Although the term is central to
their enquiry, scholars rarely reect on its precise meaning or what it is intended to cap-
ture. Yet whether ‘supranationalism’ is a preference for a particular form of governance,
a motivation, or a conception of the Commission’s role, is a fundamental question. More-
over,the measures of ‘supranationalism’ that scholars use are often oblique. As a result, the
operationalization of the term frequently arrives at a construct that is somewhat estranged
from the values actually registered by respondents.
The second shortcoming relates to the narrow sample on which existing studies draw.
The literature typically reports ndings based on data relating to a small number of indi-
viduals or to a particular subgroup within a staff category. Even setting aside other rel-
evant characteristics, such as level of seniority, nationality, gender or location, which are
important to ensuring that a sample is representative of the organization’s population,
such an approach neglects the differentiated composition of the Commission workforce.
Staff belong to different formal categories – they are administrators, assistants, temporary
agents, contract agents and seconded national experts – and occupy a position (‘grade’) in
a hierarchy within those groupings. ‘Administrators’, for example, encompasses senior
and middle managers in high grades, and policy ofcers in non-management roles in
lower grades. Other groupings, for example, temporary agents, include both cabinet mem-
bers, who work at the peak of the organization on the political frontline, and individuals
drafted in to cover short-term staff shortages at all levels. Figure 1 illustrates the main staff
groupings in the Commission (see also Connolly and Kassim 2015, table 10.2).
A further complication arises from the fact that a proportion of administrators and assis-
tants are on temporary contracts. Thus, a distinction between permanent and temporary
staff cuts across, rather than coincides neatly with, staff groupings. In a differentiated
Senior manager Middle manager Official AD (non-management)
Temporary staff AD Official AST Contract staff
Special adviser Local staff Agent under national law
FIGURE 1 European Commission workforce by staff category (2014)
Source: European Commission DG HR (2015).
Public Administration Vol.94, No. 3, 2016 (717–737)
© 2016 John Wiley& Sons Ltd.

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