Explanatory Variables and Bivariate Relationships

This chapter's explanation of individual variation in parliamentarians' support for reforms of their direct European role emphasizes constitutional preferences and constraints arising from existing parliamentary institutions at the national level. As discussed already in Chapter 3, the inclination of parliamentarians towards federal or intergovernmental constitutional visions of the EU polity is difficult to measure directly. It is reflected, however, in the views of parties or individual politicians regarding particular institutional choices that they face in the context of European constitutional politics (e.g. Jachtenfuchs etal. 1998). The previous analyses that focused on the level of political parties relied on partisan views of the EU and EP, based on the argument that federally oriented parties seek to empower a parliament at the European level, while attributing less importance to national parliamentary rights and capacities, whereas their counterparts with intergovernmental tendencies seek to respond to perceived parliamentary deficits in the EU with reforms of domestic oversight institutions. At the individual level, the EMPS contains a number of items that could plausibly be connected to federal and intergovernmental constitutional preferences (e.g. Katz and Wessels 1999; Schmitt andThomassen 1999; Wessels 2005). These items, shown in Table 6.3, inquire parliamentarians' views regarding selected competences of the EP, such as the right to make laws directly applicable to all member states, or to choose the European Commission. Moreover, they also ask for views directly relevant for the intergovernmental vision of the EU, namely the desired influence of national governments and national parliaments. A final question investigates whether representatives believe that the EU's legitimacy is based on the EP or rather on national parliaments.

Table 6.3 Factor analysis of survey items related constitutional preferences

Variable & Survey question



1) Opposition to EP law-making

Regardless of the current legal situation, to what extent do you favour or are you against a situation in which the European Parliament would have the power to pass laws that would apply directly to all member states of the European Union? 1 (very much in favour) to 7 (very much against)


2) Opposition to EP appointment authority

There is a range of proposals being discussed to deal with the 'democratic deficit' in the European Union. To what extent would you be in favour of the following proposals? Please use the scale to indicate your position. The Commission should be chosen by the European Parliament rather than by the national governments. 1 (very much in favour) to 7 (very much against)


3) Support for EP influence

Could you say how much influence the following institutions and organs ought to have concerning decision-making in the European Union? The European Parliament. 1 (very little) to 11 (very much)


4) Support for governmental influence

Could you say how much influence the following institutions and organs ought to have concerning decision-making in the European Union? National governments. 1 (very little) to 11 (very much)


5) Support for national parliamentary influence

Could you say how much influence the following institutions and organs ought to have concerning decision-making in the European Union? National parliaments. 1 (very little) to 11 (very much)


6) EU legitimacy based on national parliaments rather than EP

Some people regard the European Parliament as the democratic heart of the Union, because democratic legitimacy of the Union can only be based on a supranational parliament. Others say that this is a wrong ambition because the legitimacy of the Union is already based on the national parliaments. Where would you place your personal opinion on the following scale? The democratic legitimation of the Union should be based on:

1 (the European Parliament) to 7 (national parliament)


Source: Survey questions from the European Members of Parliament Study (see above for details).

Table 6.3 also presents the results of a factor analysis that seeks to identify a common underlying factor, which could be taken to stand for parliamentarians' constitutional preferences. The analysis indeed returns only a single factor with an eigenvalue larger than one. This factor takes on larger values as parliamentarians tend towards intergovernmental constitutional preferences. It could thus be labelled 'intergovernmentalism'. To say that parliamentarians are inter- governmentalists, hence, means that they tend to oppose EP law-making and appointment authority, reject EP influence more generally, welcome national government and parliament influence, and conceive of national parliaments as the basis of EU legitimacy. As Figure 6.2 highlights, the extent to which parliamentarians' adopt intergovernmentalist constitutional preferences varies within and between countries. Some parliaments, notably in Sweden but also

Parliamentarians' intergovernmental constitutional preferences across countries

Figure 6.2 Parliamentarians' intergovernmental constitutional preferences across countries

Note: The vertical axis shows the factor scores derived from the factor analyses of the survey items in Table 6.3.

in Ireland and France, are composed of far more intergovernmentally oriented representatives than elsewhere such as in Belgium and Germany.

Parliamentarians' views of a direct role in EU affairs should also be constrained by existing parliamentary rights and capacities at the national level, EU-related as well as those focusing on domestic policy-making more generally. EU-related oversight institutions are measured in the same way as in the previous chapters, at the time of the survey investigated here. In order to measure parliaments' domestic rights and capacities, this chapter uses Doring's (1995) assessment of parliamentary agenda rights, which is closer to the time under investigation than Martin and Depauw's (2011) data on committee competences (see Chapter 5). It is important to note that the strength of EU-related oversight institutions is itself a product of constitutional preferences and domestic institutions. Any effect that they have additionally on parliamentarians' support of a direct European role should, therefore, be interpreted as an indirect consequence of these more fundamental explanatory factors. Motivated by intergovernmental inclinations and existing institutions, parties strengthen EU-related oversight competences of national parliaments. The existence of such competences, in turn, indirectly indicates a preference of parliamentary actors on domestic oversight as opposed to a direct European role. Moreover, where strong domestic competences to deal with EU affairs already exist, additional instruments to participate directly in European-level policy-making promise limited added value for parties and parliamentarians, while threatening to require additional time and resources.

Existing institutions and parliamentarians' support for a direct role in EU affairs

Figure 6.3 Existing institutions and parliamentarians' support for a direct role in EU affairs

Note: In the aggregation to the country-level, the data was weighted to make data representative of parties' parliamentary seat shares within countries.

Sources: Based on data of the European Members of Parliament study (EMPS) (Katz and Wessels 1999;Schmitt and Thomassen 1999;Wessels 2005). Domestic agenda rights: Doring (1995). Level of oversight: own data;see also Chapter 2.

Figure 6.3 presents bivariate relationships between parliamentarians' support for three options to strengthen their direct role in EU affairs, and existing institutions. Regarding all three reform proposals, strong institutions at home, EU-related or not, are associated with considerably more sceptical parliamentary views. The pattern is, however, weaker and less consistent when it comes to the question of whether member state parliaments should have closer ties with the European Commission. As suggested, this may be the case because this proposal is most compatible with a focus on domestic oversight, compared to the other two. Strong existing institutions, in turn, undermine support for inter-parliamentary cooperation as well as for the creation of a joint national committee of national and European parliamentarians. Interestingly, at least on the basis of the visual impression of the figure, EU-related oversight institutions appear to have a stronger impact than domestic agenda rights. EU-related competences might reflect more clearly that parliamentarians prefer a focus on domestic oversight in EU affairs, as opposed to a direct European role, while domestic agenda rights capture this tendency more indirectly. Moreover, instrumental considerations might reinforce the impact of EU-related competences in the sense that these competences already give parliamentarians tailor-made opportunities to engage with the EU and, thus, call into question the benefit of a direct European role.

The following analysis additionally includes two control variables. The first is the party position on European integration, measured on the basis of CH-LR expert surveys, in the same way as in Chapter 5 (Bakker etal. 2015; Hooghe etal. 2010; Steenbergen and Marks 2007; Ray 1999). This measure, as discussed in Chapters 4 and 5, approximates partisan constitutional preferences. Recall additionally that the CH-LR surveys ask experts to assess the position of the party leadership. These party positions are, thus, not the same as the views of each individual parliamentarian. Of course, some relationship is to be expected because politicians pass numerous steps before becoming members of parliament for a particular party. These steps involve selection processes by party leaders as well as self-selection—politicians do not want to stand for every conceivable party. On the other hand, Chapter 3 also highlighted various reasons for why parties comprise, and leaders tolerate, diverse preferences regarding the right institutional design of the EU polity. Hence, the relation between party leaders' positions on the EU and parliamentarians' constitutional preferences is likely to be weak. As a matter of empirical fact, the correlation is as expected. Parliamentarians with intergovernmental preferences are in parties that are less supportive of the EU than others. But it is also weak (r= -0.16).

Finally, the analysis controls for whether a party is in government. Miklin (2012), for instance, argues that opposition parties have a greater interest in and benefit more from a direct European role of national parliaments, at least when it comes to inter-parliamentary cooperation. The reason, he argues, is that opposition parliamentarians thus get the chance to acquire information about the EU policy process that they would not otherwise obtain at the national level. Members of governing parties, in contrast, would get this information from the government. On the other hand, there is also reason for scepticism. While opposition parties might certainly be interested in information that could enhance their policy influence or electoral prospects, it is less clear whether policy disagreement in or the electoral implications of EU affairs are sufficiently large to motivate parliamentarians to invest resources in inter-parliamentary cooperation. As argued in Chapter 3, where such implications are weak or absent, institutional choices are more likely to follow from constitutional preferences reflected in partisan or individual ideology and existing institutions.

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