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The European Parliament. Joe Jupille CELD/CEUCE Workshop “Comparing Democracies” Boulder, CO, June 7, 2011. Outline. Preliminaries The Basics Composition and Organization Political Groups Issues: Democratic Deficit. The Basics, 1.

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the european parliament

The European Parliament

Joe Jupille

CELD/CEUCE Workshop“Comparing Democracies”

Boulder, CO, June 7, 2011

outline
Outline
  • Preliminaries
  • The Basics
  • Composition and Organization
  • Political Groups
  • Issues: Democratic Deficit
the basics 1
The Basics, 1
  • The European Union is a union of democratic states, all with their own democratic traditions and institutions.
  • The European Parliament (EP) is the direct democratic arm of the European Union. Its members (MEPs) are directly elected by universal suffrage.
  • MEPs organize themselves and substantially act along ideological, rather than national lines. “Political groups” (supranational political parties) dominate the work and functioning of the EP.
the basics 2
The Basics, 2
  • In the EU’s institutional system, the EP serves as the lower house of the bicameral legislature, representing the people. The Council serves as the upper house, representing the states.
  • The EU is neither a pure parliamentary nor a pure presidential (separation-of-powers) system. Comparing and contrasting with the US (see Kreppel 2002) is potentially very fruitful.
  • Indeed, many experts consider the EP to be the second most powerful legislative body in the world, after the US Congress.
iii composition and organization
III. Composition and Organization
  • Members of the European Parliament (MEPs)
    • Composition: Individual (736, capped in future at 750)
    • Pathway to Power: Direct Elections, 5 year terms (CTEU art. 14(3)).
    • Role: Draft, Debate and Vote on Legislation, Budgets, engage in executive oversight, etc.
  • Political Groups (i.e., political parties) …
iv political groups
IV. Political Groups
  • The Members of the European Parliament sit in political groups – they are not organised by nationality, but by political affiliation. There are currently 7 political groups in the European Parliament.
    • Each takes care of its own internal organisation by appointing a chair (or two co-chairs in the case of some groups), a bureau and a secretariat.
    • The places assigned to Members in the Chamber are decided by political affiliation, from left to right, by agreement with the group chairmen.
    • 25 Members are needed to form a political group, and at least one-quarter of the Member States must be represented within the group. Members may not belong to more than one political group.
    • Some Members do not belong to any political group and are known as non-attached Members.
    • Before every vote in plenary the political groups scrutinise the reports drawn up by the parliamentary committees and table amendments to them.
    • The position adopted by the political group is arrived at by discussion within the group. No Member can be forced to vote in a particular way

Source: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/parliament/public/staticDisplay.do?id=45&pageRank=4&language=EN

ep seat distribution 2009 2014
EP Seat Distribution, 2009-2014

Read more at the EP’s website!

ep voting cohesion 1
EP Voting Cohesion, 1

Upshot: Party Groups in the EP vote more consistently along ideological lines than along national lines.

Source: Simon Hix, Abdul Noury and Gerard Roland (2009) 'Voting Patterns and Alliance Formation in the European Parliament', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 364, 821-831. (pdf)

ep voting cohesion 2
EP Voting Cohesion, 2

Upshot: voting cohesion among EP party groups is growing over time.

Source: Simon Hix, Abdul Noury and Gerard Roland (2009) 'Voting Patterns and Alliance Formation in the European Parliament', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 364, 821-831. (pdf)

ep voting cohesion 3
EP Voting Cohesion, 3

Upshot: the high level of voting cohesion among party groups in the European Parliament is not due solely to the prior ideological agreement of MEPs; there are distinct “party effects” operating.

Source: Simon Hix, Abdul Noury and Gerard Roland (2009) 'Voting Patterns and Alliance Formation in the European Parliament', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 364, 821-831. (pdf)

topics 1 eu climate policy 20 20 20
Topics, 1:EU Climate Policy: “20-20-20”
  • A reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions of at least 20% below 1990 levels
  • 20% of EU energy consumption to come from renewable resources
  • A 20% reduction in primary energy use compared with projected levels, to be achieved by improving energy efficiency.
  • … by 2020.
  • Tease out the national vs. ideological interests and simulate EP decision making.
topics 2 financial crisis
Topics, 2:Financial Crisis
  • Fiscally sound countries called on to “bail out” countries with fiscal/financial difficulties.
  • Tease out the national vs. ideological interests and simulate EP decision making.
democratic deficit
Democratic Deficit
  • In a variety of ways, the EU’s system for ensuring democratic representation, which is centrally focused around the EP, is flawed in design and/or practice.
    • Design: not a properly parliamentary system (Hix).
    • Design: national parties control elections, but supranational parties control legislative activity.
electoral system s for ep elections
Electoral Systems for EP Elections

Upshot:

There are still substantial cross-country differences in how MEPs are elected.

Source: Simon Hix and Sara Hagemann (2009) 'Could Changing the Electoral Rules Fix European Parliament Elections?', PolitiqueEuropeenne28, 27-41. (pdf)

summary
Summary
  • EP is the world’s only directly elected democratic supranational body.
  • It is very powerful in the EU, and comparatively extremely powerful.
  • Its nature and limitations can be fruitfully compared with those of US Congress and other democratic legislatures.
  • Simulations can help students engage.
links and resources
Links and Resources
  • http://www.votewatch.eu/
  • Hix, Simon. What’s Wrong With the EU and How to Fix It. London: Polity, 2008.
  • http://www.idea.int/vt/index.cfm (IDEA voter turnout database)
  • Kreppel, Amie. The European Parliament and Supranational Party System. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Ringe, Nils. Who Decides, and How? Preferences, Uncertainty and Policy Choice in the European Parliament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Hix, Simon and BjørnHøyland. The Political System of the European Union, 3rd edn, London: Palgrave, 2011.
  • Hix, Simon, Abdul Noury and Gérard Roland. Democratic Politics in the European Parliament. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Rittberger, Berthold. Building Europe’s Parliament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Fabbrinni, Sergio. Compound Democracies.