The European Commission is at the centre of the EU political system. Within its five-year terms each Commission proposes up to 2000 binding legal acts and thus crucially shapes form and substance of EU policy that impacts on the daily lives of more than 500 Mio European citizens. However, despite the EU Commission’s outstanding role in setting the agenda for European decision making, little is known about its internal dynamics when preparing legislation. We do not know why the EU Commission at times proposes legislative drafts that disembogue into a situation characterised by opposition from Member States, that introduce strikingly high or low standards, or that contradict each other. How can we understand at times puzzling proposals? What drives the Commission when proposing such legislation?
To answer these questions position formation of 48 legislative proposals in the areas of research and innovation, consumer policy and the intersection of social and common market policies (1999-2009) is traced and systematically compared. The project reveals that various internal positions prevail and that power and conflict inside the European Commission are essential to understand the substantial policies that are proposed for Europe. Opening the black box Commission, we identify three ideal types of internal position formation. The Commission is depicted as motivated by technocratic problem solving, by competence seeking utility maximization or ideologically motivated policy-seeking. Specifying conditions that favour one logic over the others, the typology furthers our understanding of how the EU system functions and provides novel explanations for EU policies with substantial societal implications.