Preserving the old or building the new?Reputation-building through strategic talk and engagement with stakeholder inputs by the European Commission

How bureaucracies respond publicly to policy inputs received in the context of stakeholder participation in policymaking provides important insights into their reputation-building strategies. We examine the European Commission’s public engagement with stakeholders’ inputs. We argue this is driven by its attempts to simultaneously consolidate its core, well-established reputation as a responsible policymaker, and cultivate a newer reputation as a responsive to public demands institution. This helps navigating the challenges of having to find new sources of authority and legitimacy (embedded in participatory policymaking) while also maintaining its more established ones (embedded in evidence-based policymaking). We analyse a new dataset recording stakeholders’ inputs received as part of the EC’s legislative simplification programme. We find the Commission prioritised strengthening its core reputation over cultivating its emergent one. Evidence-based inputs were significantly more likely to receive an EC public response and inform its legislative simplification programme relative to opinion-based ones. Citizens’ inputs were significantly less likely to receive a response and inform the programme. Our findings diverge from research indicating bureaucracies prioritise defending their emerging reputations, highlight the Commission’s commitment to maintain its reputational and institutional uniqueness in the EU regulatory state, and reveal a reputation-building approach akin to that of EU agencies.

» https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13501763.2022.2099450