In times of change – the evolution and the democratization of the European Union’s agencies as the ‘fourth’ branch of government

Increasingly, the EU’s legislature is conferring implementing powers on European Union agencies. The process of ‘agencification’ has intensified significantly since the early 1990s not only in respect of the numbers of EU agencies operative in the EU but also in terms of the powers conferred on them. Insofar, and despite the absence of a legal framework on EU agencies in the Treaty, EU agencies have become an established part of the way the EU operates and the functional need for the EU to resort to agencies is held to be ‘beyond question’. EU agencies increase the administrative capacity at EU level and improve the effectiveness of the EU administrative governance through technical expertise, allowing the Commission to focus on its ‘core tasks’. However, the fourth branch of government may suffer from proper democratic supervision. This paper seeks to discuss the ongoing evolution of EU agencies and their democratic credentials considering the above arguments.