Journal Articles

2024: In Europe We Trust: Selecting and Empowering EU Institutions in Disruptive Circumstances, Journal of European Integration 46(2): 235-255 (with Elena Ríos Camacho & Tony Mueller).2024-02-22T10:00:28+00:00


Over the past decade, the European Union (EU) made significant strides in economic and fiscal policy integration without formal treaty-based changes. After the euro crisis, member states granted the European Central Bank banking supervisory powers. During the pandemic, they entrusted the European Commission with raising EU debt through NextGenerationEurope. This article examines the empowerment of supranational institutions as a deliberate adjustment to disruptive circumstances. By so doing, it demonstrates that empowerment can happen through legislative acts and joint decisions by member states. The study reveals that when states have multiple agent options, like in the banking union, they select the institution they trust the most. Conversely, in nested delegation games, extensive monitoring and reporting requirements, as in the case of NextGenerationEurope, are aimed at avoiding the defection of single member states, what we call ”principal slack”, at the implementation stage.

2023: Europe’s Global Gateway: A New Instrument of Geopolitics, Politics and Governance, 11(4): 1-12.2023-11-22T14:12:28+00:00


In December 2021, the EU member states agreed on the Global Gateway strategy to mobilize public and private funds of up to €300 billion between 2021 and 2027, to invest in digital, climate and energy, transport, health, education, and research fields. With a geographical focus on Africa, Global Gateway links infrastructure investment projects with condition principles—including democratic values, good governance, and transparency—and catalyzes private investment into EU development financing. Against this backdrop, this study explores why EU member states agreed on this new geopolitical instrument. This piece posits that the confluence of three factors enabled the creation of Global Gateway. First, the EU established this new instrument to counter China’s role as a global infrastructure lender in Africa. Second, Global Gateway was possible through the shift to private investment in multilateral development financing. Equally important for the establishment of Global Gateway was the European Commission’s transformational leadership as an entrepreneurial agent in designing this geopolitical strategy of the EU’s power projection. The conclusion outlines future research avenues and enables readers to consider the wider prospects and caveats of the Global Gateway strategy.

2022: Orchestrating Private Investors for Development: How the World Bank Revitalizes, Regulation & Governance 16(4): 1382-1398 (with Thomas Dörfler).2022-10-19T10:56:27+00:00


Confronted with a new wave of criticism on the in effectiveness of its development programs, the World Bank embarked on a revitalization process, turning to private investors to finance International Development Association projects and widening its mandate. To explain these adaptation strategies of the World Bank to regain relevance, this piece draws on organizational ecology and orchestration scholarship. We contend that international organizations rely on two adaptation mechanisms, orchestration and scope expansion, when they lose their role as focal actors in an issue area. We find that the World Bank has indeed lost market share and has relied on these two mechanisms to revitalize itself. We show that the World Bank responded to changes in the environment by orchestrating a private sector-oriented capital increase, prioritizing private funding for development through a “cascade approach,” and expanding the scope of its mandate into adjacent domains of transnational governance, including climate change and global health.

2022: When Do International Organizations Engage in Agency Slack? A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of United Nations Institutions, Global Studies Quarterly 2(3) (with Patrick Mello, Anna Novoselova, Omar Ramon Serrano Oswald).2022-08-31T14:03:50+00:00

The extensive delegation of power to international organizations (IOs) has been accompanied by occasional agency slack. While prior studies suggest that IOs’ propensity for agency slack may be rooted in their organizational characteristics, this has rarely been explored empirically. To address this lacuna, in this article we propose a conceptualization and measurement of agency slack and develop a framework of organizational characteristics. Our empirical analysis applies qualitative comparative analysis to assess the conditions under which agency slack occurs across sixteen United Nations institutions. We complement the cross-case analysis with two case illustrations. Our results document the empirical existence of two paths to agency slack, providing confirmatory evidence for our theoretical expectations. Path 1 combines staffing rules that are favorable for the agent with wide access to third parties. Path 2 entails the combination of favorable staffing rules with extensive delegation of authority and a vague organizational mandate.

2022: Bringing Independence and Accountability Together: Mission Impossible for the European Central Bank?, Journal of European Integration 44(6): 837-853 (with Tony Mueller).2022-09-05T07:35:05+00:00


The European Central Bank’s (ECB) role as a political actor during the euro crisis raised concerns about its independence and insufficient accountability. Against this backdrop, the article investigates how and why the ECB reacted to demands for more accountability during and following the crisis. To this end, we revisit the independence-accountability nexus, adding three qualifications to the conventional wisdom that independence and accountability do not go together. First, recurring to the governor’s dilemma, we argue that a delegation relationship characterized by a high level of independence favours competence over controllability. Second, we open the black box of accountability by investigating the extent to which the ECB made the strategic choice to improve selected accountability dimensions. Third, against the commonsensical view that ECB accountability mechanisms are underdeveloped, this piece shows that certain accountability dimensions have been continuously improved to defend independence. The findings contribute to the literature on accountability and the causes and consequences of delegating power to supranational institutions.

2022: Measuring Actual Discretion of the European Commission: Using the Discretion Index to Guide Empirical Research, European Union Politics 23(3), 541-558 (with Markus Gastinger).2022-08-31T14:01:24+00:00

One key question in the study of the European Union has always been the extent of Commission discretion. We take the discretion index, typically used by principal–agent scholars to measure the Commission’s designed discretion, to measure its actual discretion. Commission designed discretion can today be computationally generated with sufficient accuracy across all secondary acts. The study of designed discretion thus reaches considerable maturity. Therefore, we argue that scholars should prioritize studying Commission actual discretion. We present a systematic and transparent investigative technique based on the discretion index, which we use as a roadmap to guide our empirical investigation. The index facilitates the accumulation of knowledge across policy areas and time by providing exact values for Commission discretion. We illustrate our approach with the Development Cooperation Instrument.

2022: Persistence Against the Odds: How Entrepreneurial Agents Helped the UN Joint Inspection Unit to Prevail, Global Policy 13(2), 235-246 (with Patrick Mello, Anna Novoselova, Omar Ramon Serrano Oswald).2022-05-05T14:05:57+00:00


Since its inception in 1966, the United Nations Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) has prevailed in the face of significant existential challenges. Against this backdrop, we investigate how and why the JIU persisted over time. Combining delegation and historical institutionalist approaches, we posit that entrepreneurial agents and layering processes together help us better understand persistence of international organizations. Based on semi-structured interviews with UN staff and JIU inspectors, we examine three critical junctures in the history of the JIU. Our results show that entrepreneurial agents and stakeholders in the JIU managed to avoid the closure or demotion of the JIU by engaging in a strategy of institutional layering. Our analysis, however, also demonstrates that the JIU survived at the price of losing its privilege as the central UN oversight body. These findings have implications for the study of international organizations and for the reform of the UN system at large.

2022: The Limits of Transparency: Expert Knowledge and Meaningful Accountability in Central Banking, Government and Opposition, 57(2), 217-232. doi:10.1017/gov.2020.36 (with Lisa Herzog).2022-03-08T16:45:48+00:00


Recent discussions of accountability in contexts of expert knowledge raise questions about the limits of transparency. Against this background, we discuss the nexus between expert knowledge and meaningful accountability – that is, context-sensitive accountability based on a genuine understanding of a situation. We argue that the concentration of expertise in certain institutions makes it difficult to hold those institutions accountable. In particular, three components challenge meaningful accountability: specialization, inaccessibility and potential biases or conflict of interest. We emphasize the role of ‘epistemic communities’ and their impact on the tension between expert knowledge and independence. Drawing on the deliberative systems literature, we discuss how expert knowledge might be communicated to outsiders to enable meaningful accountability. To illustrate our argument, we draw on the European Central Bank, a case study in which states have chosen a delegation design characterized by a high degree of independence and trust in expert knowledge, to the detriment of accountability. We sketch possible avenues for creating the conditions for meaningful accountability even in the case of institutions with highly concentrated expertise.

2021: The (Self-)empowerment of the European Central Bank During the Sovereign Debt Crisis, Journal of European Integration 43 (1): 83-98 (with Tony Mueller).2021-11-13T10:43:52+00:00


The European Central Bank (ECB) emerged from the sovereign debt crisis as one of the most powerful supranational institutions. Against this background, this article explains how and why the ECB became empowered during the euro area crisis. Building on the delegation, governor’s dilemma, and epistemic community approaches, we argue that the ECB ability to play a strong role in this empowerment process and to convince member states to entrust it with more competences was the outcome of a combination of three factors: limited cohesiveness within the collective principal (Eurogroup); a fiduciary relationship characterized by broad discretion and independence on the trustee side (ECB); and strong specialization with the ECB acting as epistemic entrepreneur. We illustrate our argument with two cases: the Trichet letters exemplify an autonomous emergency empowerment and the introduction of the single supervisory mechanism demonstrates ECB influence on institutional design decisions in negotiating processes.


2021: A new delegation design for EU governance: how preference cohesiveness of multiple principals shapes the European Commission’s discretion in trade negotiations, Comparative European Politics 19, 576–593.2021-11-16T14:31:02+00:00


The Lisbon Treaty enhanced the role of the European Parliament in free trade agreements. This article offers a comprehensive theoretical and empirical account of this new delegation design in EU trade governance. Specifically, it addresses the question how the preference cohesiveness of multiple principals—the Council of Ministers as a de jure principal and the Parliament as a de facto principal—shapes the Commission’s discretion in negotiating trade agreements. Exploring these two conjectures through a combination of primary materials and interviews, this contribution posits that those configurations of low degree of cohesiveness within the Council and high cohesiveness within the Parliament or high cohesiveness of the Council and low cohesiveness within the Parliament increase Commission discretion. A configuration of low cohesiveness within and between multiple principals, by contrast, is more likely to lead to paralysis of the negotiation process.

2021: Populism as a “Corrective” to Trade Agreements? “America First” and the Readjustment of NAFTA, International Politics, (with Robert Csehi).2021-11-13T10:47:01+00:00


The past few years have seen an upsurge in populist politics around the globe. Yet, its potential impact on the liberal international order has been analyzed mainly from a discursive perspective, and much less is known about actual policy implications. Adopting an ideational approach to populism and taking the case of the NAFTA renegotiation process as a building block in the liberal economic order, this article studies the populist imprints of the revised agreement. First, we demonstrate how the populist division of society between ‘the corrupt elite’ and ‘the honest people’ and the emphasis on popular sovereignty were used as narrative frames in criticizing NAFTA. In a second step, through selected provisions, we show how alterations to NAFTA are considered as ‘populist corrections’ to guarantee greater representation for ‘the people’ and better safeguards for popular sovereignty under the USMCA. The article concludes with a discussion of potential implications for global trade.

2020: Reforming International Organizations: How Partisanship and Ministerial Control Shape States Preferences towards the World Bank, Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations 26 (4), 2020, 601–627 (with Laura Mahrenbach).2021-11-13T10:57:08+00:00


Recent scholarship has highlighted the role of domestic pressures in determining state preferences toward the reform of international organizations (IO s). This article adds a new dimension by examining how partisanship and ministerial control affect state preferences toward IOempowerment. The article derives two expectations from the existing literature. First, partisan position will determine preferences toward IO empowerment. Second, when a government is constituted by multiple parties, the position of the party with the IO’s ministerial portfolio will determine the government’s position toward IO empowerment. The article illustrates this argument by examining the positions of four net donors (Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and two net recipients (Brazil and India) during the World Bank’s reforms. By bringing domestic politics back in, this article complements existing studies on the politics of IOreform and weighs in on central debates in comparative politics and international political economy.

2020: Contested EU Trade Governance: Transparency Conundrums in TTIP Negotiations, Comparative European Politics, 18: 215-232,


During TTIP negotiations, the European Commission was severely criticized by civil society organizations and public opinion for its secrecy regarding negotiation strategies and priorities. The Commission responded by making some negotiating texts publicly available. This article explores the implications of increasing transparency in trade negotiations. Drawing on negotiation, politicization, and informal governance literature, it examines how the Commission’s choice for a partial transparency approach had three paradoxical effects on negotiations. First, greater transparency did not help the public perception of TTIP. Second, greater transparency increased the EU’s bargaining leverage but led to a low degree of negotiating discretion for the Commission. Finally, greater transparency transformed the nature of the negotiating process by making it more informal, allowing bargaining parties to act outside the public scrutiny. This contribution solves these transparency puzzles by showing that partial transparency is a double-edged sword. Whilst greater transparency has become an important legitimation strategy in EU trade governance, adopting a partial transparency approach fuelled public protest instead of muting it and led to the failure of the negotiations.

2019: Legacies and Innovations in Global Economic Governance Since Bretton Woods, Review of International Political Economy 26 (6): 1089-1111 (with Orfeo Fioretos).2021-11-13T10:50:48+00:00

The international economic system that emerged after the 1944 Bretton Woods conference became the most durable international arrangement devoted to economic openness. Seventy-five years after the conference, however, global shifts in power, institutional gridlock, and populist backlash figure prominently in accounts predicting the system’s demise. This article examines the legacies of the Bretton Woods conference for structures and practices of global economic governance and innovations that emerged over time to adapt the system to new political and economic circumstances. It explores how and why the Bretton Woods system became a more variegated system over time with respect to four features of governance: membership, legalization, organizational focality, and market embeddedness. It identifies sources and effects of expanding membership in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the emergence of new formal and informal institutions, the challenges of a more fragmented institutional landscape, and shifts in the underlying principles of economic governance. Finally, the article discusses lessons from past crises in and reforms to the Bretton Woods system, and their implications for understanding recent challenges to global economic cooperation.

2019: Explaining Coherence in International Regime Complexes: How the World Bank Shapes the Field of Multilateral Development Finance, Review of International Political Economy 26 (6): 1160-1186 (with Henning Schmidtke).2021-11-16T07:17:42+00:00


The landscape of multilateral development finance has changed dramatically in the past decades. At Bretton Woods, delegates envisioned the World Bank as the focal organization mobilizing financial support for national development strategies. Today, this issue area is populated by no less than 27 multilateral development banks including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank created under Chinese leadership. This paper shows that, des- pite this institutional proliferation, the development finance regime remains largely coherent and core governance features designed at Bretton Woods continue to shape the emerging regime complex. We develop a historical institutionalist argu- ment for why newly created institutions are likely to imitate extant institutions. We suggest that states add new institutions not only in response to deficiencies in extant institutions but also to increase their control and reputation. We analyze three causal pathways – path-dependence, orchestration, and independent learning – that contribute to a coherent regime complex. We show that focal inter- national organizations can use their position to prevent incoherence.

2019: Global Democracy in Decline? How Rising Authoritarianism Limits Democratic Control over International Institutions, Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations, 25(2): 231-254 (with Henning Schmidtke).2021-11-13T11:00:25+00:00


Over the past decade, rising authoritarian regimes have begun to challenge the liberal international order. This challenge is particularly pronounced in the field of multilateral development finance, where China and its coalition partners from Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa have created two new multilateral development banks. This article argues that China and its partners have used the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to increase their power and to restrict democratic control mechanisms. By comparing formal mechanisms of democratic control in both organizations to the World Bank, this article shows that civil society access, transparency, and accountability are lower at the AIIB and NDB than they are at the World Bank.

2018: Rising Powers in Global Economic Governance: Mapping the Flexibility-Empowerment Nexus, Global Policy 10(1): 19-28 (with Laura C. Mahrenbach).2021-11-15T14:35:57+00:00


Given long-standing criticism of global economic institutions by rising powers, it is puzzling that these same governments supported the transfer of substantial resources and responsibilities to the IMF and the World Bank during recent reform negotiations. We argue rising powers’ support for international organization (IO) empowerment is linked to their concerns regarding an IO’s flexibility. We introduce two types of flexibility as being most relevant for rising powers. These include governance flexibility – the extent to which rising powers may participate in IO decision-making – and issue flexibility – the extent to which rising power preferences are incorporated into IO policies and programs. We illustrate our argument by examining the preferences of the BIC states (Brazil, India and China) towards IMF and World Bank reforms between 2008 and 2012. Drawing on archival material with over 50 statements from BIC representatives, we find, first, that there were clear links between Bank and Fund governance flexibility and the BICs’ support for empowerment of these IOs, but that this was not true for issue flexibility. Second, we find evidence indicating the strategies of individual BIC governments differ within these IOs, suggesting a need to undertake more differentiated studies of rising powers’ IO activities.

2018: Lost in Internal Evaluation? Accountability and Insulation at the World Bank, Contemporary Politics 24(5): 568-587.2021-11-16T07:22:50+00:00


Over past decades, the World Bank has been criticized by scholars, policymakers, and civil society groups for being unaccountable and inefficient. Confronted with this wave of contestation, the Bank established several internal accountability mechanisms, including the Inspection Panel, the Independent Evaluation Group, and the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman. Against this background, this article investigates how the proliferation of accountability mechanisms in a large and complex organization such as the World Bank reduces rather than enhances transparency and lines of accountability. I argue that the establishment of a myriad of accountability mechanisms has paradoxically made the Bank even more encapsulated and less accountable to the outside world. Unpacking the differential effects of external and internal accountability mechanisms makes this contribution of significant interest to scholars working on the accountability and performance of international organizations.

2017: Shaping Global Trade Governance Rules: New Powers’ Hard and Soft Strategies of Influence at the WTO, European Foreign Affairs Review, 22: 19-36, Special Issue EU and US Regulatory Power under Strain? Emerging Countries and the Limits of External Governance.2021-11-16T07:31:13+00:00


How do new powers seek to influence global trade governance rules? In this contribution, I posit that, contrary to the EU and the US, which act predominantly as regulatory powers, rising powers use a variety of hard and soft strategies to shape global trade governance. The article finds that a combination of hard strategies, such as coalition-building or obstruction, and soft strategies, including placing their own nationals at the top of the WTO or pursuing incremental procedural changes to make trade governance more inclusive, enabled new powers to shape global trade governance rules over the past fifteen years.