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The Magnitude of Parliamentary Reform in EU Affairs

The downside of analysing the likelihood of reform is that the results do not tell us about how substantial institutional changes are. The last step of this chapter is to take a closer look at the magnitude of reforms. Figure 4.5 plots bivariate relationships between reforms on the one hand, and the explanatory variables on the other. As in the case of earlier figures, these plots do not take into account interdependencies between reforms in a given country, which will be considered below. They do, however, give an impression of the conditions under which substantial changes in EU-related oversight institutions happen. The main insight is clear. Only the strength of parliamentary committee systems in the member states appears to correlate with the magnitude of EU-related reforms. The relationships between institutional adaptation to integration and the other explanatory variables are largely 'flat'. A possible exception is that reforms appear to be somewhat stronger in countries with Eurosceptic, as compared to Europhile, citizens. Yet, this relationship, too, is weak on first sight.

Table 4.6 presents results of three regression models, set up in a similar way as in the previous sections. With only thirty observations to investigate, these models have apparent limits. Nonetheless, they do allow examining whether domestic committee strength, or any of the other variables, shows an effect on the magnitude of reform when controlling for levels of oversight prevailing after the previous opportunity for institutional change. The findings are in line with what Figure 4.5 suggested. Where parliaments have committee systems

Explanatory variables and the magnitude of parliamentary reforms in EU affairs

Figure 4.5 Explanatory variables and the magnitude of parliamentary reforms in EU affairs

Source: Magnitude of parliamentary reform: own data;see also Chapter 2. Variables on the horizontal axes: see section on 'The Explanatory Variables' in Chapter 4.

with significant rights and capacities in domestic policy-making, we also find significant EU-related oversight competences. None of the other explanatory variables has a significant impact on parliamentary adaptation to integration. The direction of the effect of parliamentary EU support is in the expected direction but not significant. The model reflecting an explanation based on constitutional preferences performs clearly better than the other two.

Let us finally examine how the magnitude of reforms relates to differences in treaty changes at the EU level and to the timing of different EU accession

Analysing Domestic Adaptation to Integration

Table 4.6 Regression models of the magnitude of parliamentary reform

Ml

M2

M3

в

SE

P.

в

SE

P.

в

SE

P.

EU support

-0.137

0.152

0.379

-0.132

0.147

0.380

Domestic committee

0.120

0.048

0.022

0.120

0.053

0.035

strength

Minority government

-0.162

0.160

0.322

-0.029

0.160

0.858

Cabinet conflict (left-right)

0.003

0.014

0.861

-0.009

0.012

0.450

Cabinet conflict (EU)

0.058

0.176

0.744

0.034

0.119

0.780

Popular Euroscepticism

0.002

0.004

0.666

Oversight at the end of

-0.644

0.205

0.005

-0.588

0.271

0.043

-0.656

0.248

0.016

the last RO Constant

0.827

1.144

0.478

0.784

0.223

0.002

0.936

1.157

0.429

Observations

30

30

30

r-square

0.468

0.219

0.489

AIC

26.159

39.642

32.952

BIC

31.763

46.648

44.162

Note: Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression with country-clustered standard errors. в: Coefficient estimate. SE: Standard error. p.: p-value. RO: Reform opportunity. AIC: Akaike information criterion. BIC: Bayesian information criterion.

rounds. We have already seen earlier that changes in EU authority have no systematic bearing on whether reforms are likely or not. There are, however, signs that they matter for how substantial institutional changes are. On average, reforms in response to the Maastricht Treaty on European Union, the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty amounted to 0.4-0.5 units on the zero to two scale of the strength of EU-related parliamentary oversight institutions. In contrast to these reforms, which were all comprehensive revisions of the entire set of EU competences, reforms following the Treaty of Amsterdam and Treaty of Nice were smaller in scope, amounting to 0.1-0.2 units of institutional change respectively. Regarding the timing of EU enlargements, we have also already seen that these reforms are typically more substantial than subsequent reforms. Moreover, the strength of oversight institutions that accession countries adopt correlates strongly with the level of EU authority at the time they join. On closer look, however, we can see now that this effect primarily results from the contrast between the Southern cohort and all subsequent ones. Whereas parliamentary reforms in Portugal and Spain amounted to, on average, a 0.2 unit change on the scale measuring the strength of oversight, reforms in the EFTA countries reached 1.2 units, and 0.9 and 0.7 units respectively in the first and second Eastern enlargement round. It would seem, therefore, that there is a difference between whether a country joined the EU before the 1990s or after. Otherwise, however, there is no clear relationship between when countries join and the magnitude of the parliamentary reforms that policy-makers implement.

In sum, it appears that the characteristics of parliamentary institutions of the member states shape the magnitude of EU-related reforms. This finding helps to reconcile a discrepancy between the analysis of variation in levels of oversight across countries (the first part of this chapter) and the likelihood of reform choices. While existing institutions showed an effect on the former, they played no role in explaining why reforms happen in some parliaments and not in others. The correlation between domestic institutions and levels of oversight emerges because in countries where parliamentary committee systems have strong rights and capacities parties adopt more significant reforms than elsewhere. The conclusion returns to the interpretation of this finding.

 
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