Domestic Parliamentary Institutions

The strength of domestic parliamentary institutions could be measured in various ways. Several data sources exist, ranging from global comparisons (for example, the parliamentary power index of Fish and Kroenig 2009) to studies focusing more specifically on parliamentary democracies in Europe (e.g. Martin and Depauw 2011; Ylaoutinen and Hallerberg 2009; Doring 1995). On the downside, none of these measures takes up variation in parliamentary institutions over time, forcing us to assume that their most important characteristics are stable over extended periods of time. The available information and literature do not allow us to test the empirical accuracy of this assumption but they provide some hunches. Sieberer and colleagues (2011) show that there actually are regular revisions of parliamentary rules of procedure in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Yet, whether these revisions are relevant for the most important rights and capacities of the parliament in domestic policy-making, such as the strength of the committee system or budgetary powers, remains uncertain. Lijphart (1999) and Powell (2000), for instance, argue that essential characteristics of the political system, including parliamentary institutions such as the committee system or bicameralism, reflect visions or patterns of democracy. Thus, these institutions are not merely rooted in the contemporary balance of political forces but more fundamentally in the values and norms that most relevant policy-makers subscribe to. The upshot of this argument is that we would not expect sudden and dramatic changes of political institutions because the values and beliefs prevailing in a political system rarely change suddenly and dramatically (cf. Marcussen et al. 1999; Jachtenfuchs et al. 1998).

Turning to the question of what specifically to look at when one tries to capture the strength of domestic parliamentary institutions, general measures designed for worldwide comparisons such as the parliamentary power index do not distinguish the parliaments of the EU member states well. Certainly, there are differences within Europe, but these are small from a global perspective. The literature on national parliaments in EU affairs has used two measures of the strength of sectoral standing committees between about 2005 and 2010 (Karlas 2012, who uses a measure from Martin and Depauw 2011; Ylaoutinen and Hallerberg 2009), and a measure of domestic agenda control from the mid-1990s (Raunio 2005; the measure comes from Doring 1995). In Chapter 6, the measure of domestic agenda control will become useful because the mid-1990s will be the period of interest. However, this measure is available only for the EU15 member states (the fifteen member states that had joined the EU up to 2004), which makes it less helpful for the analysis in this chapter. Yet, it is an equally plausible choice to rely on information on the strength of parliamentary committees in domestic policy-making because oversight of EU policy-making takes place predominantly within committees (cf. Karlas 2012: 1103). Table A4.2 shows the three measures. The fact that they do not correlate strongly means that there is a relevant choice to be made here. I will use Martin's and Depauw's (2011) measure of committee strength because it covers more countries than Doring's (1995), and because it is a general measure of the competences of parliamentary committees whereas Ylaoutinen and Hallerberg (2009) focus on the budgetary process. A measure that focuses on the characteristics of the parliamentary committee system is also theoretically appropriate in the sense that existing studies regard these characteristics as components of more general visions of democracy reflected in the institutions of different member states (Powell 2000).

 
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