Legislatures and foreign affairs: Political parties, committees, and individual MPs

Dates:  Thursday, April 14th – Friday, April 15th, 2016
Place: University of Tampere (Finland)
Contact persons: Tapio Raunio, Alexander Hoppe


Additional Information

The call for papers can be found here (please note that the deadline has been extended to 31 January)



Aron Buzogány (Freie Universität Berlin, Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science) - Foreign Policy and Committee Selection in the German Bundestag




Theories of legislative organization highlight the growing need for professionalization, specialization and diversification within parliaments and regard the committee system as a main feature both of how parliaments as complex organizations interact with their environment and how they structure internally their working procedures. Indeed, parliamentary standing committees play a central role in policy-making in most advanced democracies. Not only do they feed in policy expertise into the legislative process, they also provide space for deliberation and are a central instrument to control the executive. For individual MPs, membership in committees can have wide-ranging career implications. Following the recent „Domestic Politics & Decision Making Turn in IR Theory“ (Kaarbo, 2015), which opens foreign policy research towards research in legislative studies and party politics, in this paper I will look at selection into four standing committees with foreign policy implications: Foreign Policy, European Affairs, Defence and Development. Using individual MP data from the German Bundestag (2010-2015) I analyze the selection into each of these committees. The paper finds that turnover rates in foreign policy relevant committees are relatively high but are declining. Previous tenure in a given committee is the most important factor explaining assignment, highlighting that legislators learn on the job. 


Maciej Szymonski (Kozminski University, Warsaw) - Legislators’ preferences and ruling parties’ political ideologies in time of crisis. Are they the same as in time of stability? What is justified by threats and what is permitted in time of storms?




Europe as a continent and the EU as commonwealth are torn by diverse storms. EU’s organism is shaken by challenges, among which the financial crisis and the migration wave significantly weaken Europe’s consistence. As history shows, in time of difficulties, often, there is no time to obey the law. The legislature created in time of stability seems not to give clear answers how to resolve burning problems. Time of danger, real or assumed, transforms into the time of brave actions or time of lawlessness. In 2015 because of the situation on the ground, several EU legislations were violated. Questions which need to be answered are: why, by whom, and what are the results of these violations? In respect to the situation with migrants, in order to correctly examine and answer above questions, it is worth to focus on actions and evaluate them from two perspectives: EU legislation and political affiliation of the ruling party. By comparative case-study analyses I would like to draw attention to the circumstances which led countries to obey, or not, the law and show how was it perceived by the other EU members. My research would base on 3 major law sectors involved in the issue of migration: EU border law, Human Rights law, Geneva Conventions. I would like to examine it on the example of six countries, three being not in favor of accepting illegal migration (Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic) and, on the other edge, three more open, with a pro-humanitarian approach (Germany, Denmark, Sweden).  Such research would give a clear answer to the anticipated lack of correlation between political ideology and willingness to obey the international law. Serve as a confirmation, or deny, of similarities between political ideologies in different countries, and as a comparative study of different approaches towards the same, appealing problem.


Sigita Trainauskiene (Vilnius) - Seimas’ powers and inability: why the defence budget shrank




According to their powers to influence the policy-making process world’s legislatures are usually classified into “policy-making”, “policy-influencing” legislatures and “legislatures with little or no policy effect” (Mezey 1979/ Norton 1990). There is a common assumption that they have only a limited role in foreign affairs which are being dominated by the executive. However, the “power of purse” makes them important actors in foreign policy as well. In terms of formal powers in the area of a budget, the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) can be classified as a “policy-influencing” assembly because it is not only able to submit its own proposals to the government but also to approve a budget proposal to which the government contradicts. Yet, the example of a shrinking defence budget during the last decade suggests that the Seimas was incapable of realising its powers and fulfilling the country’s political commitments. This paper aims to evaluate the institutional capacity of the Lithuanian parliament in budgeting as well as to analyse the reasons behind the “shrinking budget” phenomenon and the interplay among the main political actors in the process. 


Thomas Malang (University of Konstanz) -It Starts at Home! Testing Individual Level Factors for the Explanation of Parliamentarians’ Involvement in Foreign Affairs




This paper theorizes the underlying incentives for individual parliamentarians to get involved in two different forms of foreign policy institutions; participation in foreign policy committees and membership in international parliamentary assemblies. Based on rational calculus of vote seeking and the assumption that MPs represent there voters at home, I test if there are individual disincentives (district MP, economic pressure) or incentives (border district, high share of foreigners) to become active in foreign policy. The same ration argument is presented at the party level for the government – opposition divide and the respective salience of controlling the government in foreign policy. My newly collected data comprises all parliamentarians of the recent legislative period of the German Bundestag. On the side of the independent variables I have for every MP spatial, demographic, and economic measures for their constituencies, type of mandate, position in the party hierarchy, and ideological dispositions. I use standard logistic regression models in the analysis to show that especially incentives at home and the already acquired expertise in foreign policy are positive and stable predictors for membership in the different foreign committees. 


Neslihan Temelat (Institute for Political Sciences, University of Tübingen) - Parliamentarization of Foreign Affairs: Shift-of-Axis in the Turkish Grand National Assembly?




Whether there has been a genuine shift-of-axis in the Turkish Foreign Policy in the AKP era has attracted political and scholarly interest in recent years. Turkey’s increased activism in international affairs has been attributed to the new foreign policy mindset of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP). Turkish foreign policy has witnessed a shift under the single party government of AKP that came to power in November 2002. The new Turkish foreign policy reflects an integrated foreign policy based on a global vision of maintaining peace in itself and spreading this peace and stability into its region via its Middle East policy. This active foreign policy is ostensible by development of diplomatic activities and increasing usage of soft power in every region of the world. On the other hand, it has been argued that Turkey’s EU process, the main axis of its foreign policy, has lost its significance recently. How this new vision of foreign policy, multidimensionality and activism reflect to the parliamentary arena is an interesting question. This research, starting from a number of hypotheses regarding the new tenets of in Turkish Foreign Policy, aims to examine the region and issue-based parliamentarization of foreign affairs in the case of the Turkish Parliament in 1999-2015. For this purpose, this paper explains the main characteristics of changes in Turkish Foreign Policy under domestic and external conditions and then analyzes various parliamentary forums and instruments including the laws approving international agreements, parliamentary questions and inter-parliamentary dialogue using the method of content analysis. 


Wolfgang Wagner (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) - The Party Politics of Military Missions: Deployment Votes in Germany, Spain, France and the United Kingdom




Research on European parliaments in foreign and security policy has mostly treated parliaments as unitary actors and thereby ignored that parliamentary practices are heavily influenced by party politics. Votes on the deployment of armed forces are no exception to this (rule). This paper aims at redressing this shortcoming in research by zooming in on political parties in parliaments in the realm of security and defence policy.  On the basis of data from the Chapel Hill Expert Survey, we demonstrate that political parties widely differ in supporting or opposing their country’s participation in military missions. We then present and analyse data on parliamentary votes on military deployments in Germany, Spain, France and the United Kingdom that have been collected specifically for this paper. Our analysis demonstrates that the voting behaviour of political parties indeed reflects a left-right cleavage and respective party preferences over military missions. Votes against military deployments are most frequent amongst political parties on the radical left and least frequent amongst Christian Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals. At the same time, however, political parties’ role as part of the governing coalition or in opposition has a tremendous influence on actual voting behaviour. Moreover, we discuss to what extent a country’s political context supersedes transnational party political orientations.




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Aron Buzogány