Workshop: “Rethinking Representation? The Changing Environment for Parliamentary Democracy”

Dates:  March 26-27, 2015
Place: IHS, Vienna (Austria)
Contact: Katrin Auel and Johannes Pollak


Additional Information

The deadline for the call for papers is December 15, 2014.

Find the call for papers here…



Julian Hörner (LSE, London) - Resolutions of national parliaments in EU affairs: The crucial role of issue entrepreneurs



This paper analyses the activity of national parliaments in EU affairs in the form of resolutions. Covering the time period from the late 1990s until the present, the paper examines parliamentary motions and resolutions on EU affairs in six West European countries: Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom. Differences in the frequency of resolutions between countries as well as between party groups with regard to motions are examined. Moreover, all motions and resolutions were hand coded to establish the valence of the texts, i.e. the extent to which they are supportive or critical of the government. Formal scrutiny powers in EU affairs do not seem to have an impact on the frequency with which resolutions are issued. The activity of national parliaments in the form of resolutions is mostly driven by ‘issue entrepreneurs’, parties which are critical of the European Union and which see it as a salient issue. Motions initiated by issue entrepreneurs are very critical of the government’s policy and of the European Union. Moreover, Motions by issue entrepreneurs tend to have a longer preamble and a shorter operational part compared to motions by mainstream opposition and government parties. The reason for this is most likely that issue entrepreneurs use motions to express their opinion on the EU in general instead of formulating a targeted criticism of the government’s policy. The parliamentary activity brought about by issue entrepreneurs might thus not lead to an increase in actual democratic control and accountability in EU affairs.


Lucy Kinski (IHS, Vienna) - Europeanized Responsibility vs. National Responsiveness? National Parliamentarians’ Representation during the Eurozone Crisis



The Eurozone crisis is not only an economic, but more fundamentally a political crisis. It has seriously challenged the so-called ‘standard account’ of democratic representation in two ways: First, the conditional measures taken to rescue severely indebted member states have shown that the authority to make binding decisions does not necessarily coincide anymore with a citizenry defined by the territory of a nation-state. Decision-making power has increasingly become out of sync with democratic authorization and accountability mechanisms. Second, for MPs this crisis has like no other event in recent years brought a well-known tension to the forefront: They are torn between being co-responsible trustees maintaining the stability of the wider EU system and responsive delegates responding to the national electorate’s concerns. In other words, their responsibility for the longer-term needs of their national as well as other EU member states’ citizens may well clash with their responsiveness to short-term demands of national constituencies. Surprisingly, the debate on the representative roles of national parliaments within the European Union in general and the Eurozone crisis in particular has so far been dominated by the narrow understanding of representation. In this view, national parliaments are the institutions to represent the national citizenry, i.e. their national electorate’s interests in EU affairs, and their main task is to hold their governments and EU institutions to account with oversight and scrutiny mechanisms. Hence, in EU affairs, their role is largely conceptualized as responsive national delegates. It is unclear, however, in how far they act as responsible European trustees as well, taking into account wider than national constituencies, and assuming a parliamentary communication role beyond scrutiny. In short, we lack both theory and empirics on a possible Europeanization of their representative patterns during the Eurozone crisis. Against this background, the paper investigates the patterns of representation national parliamentarians convey during the Eurozone crisis and the factors that explain their choices. Theoretically, six ideal typical EU patterns of representation by MPs are conceptualized from a neo-institutional rational-choice perspective. Empirically, this paper focuses on the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), employing a Representative Claims Analysis (RCA) of plenary debates. First descriptive empirical results for three countries, Austria, Germany and Ireland, indicate creditor-debtor, cross-country and –party differences with regard to the claimed focus and scope of representation, while similarities tend to prevail concerning the claimed parliamentary functions.


Jofre Rocabert (ETH, Zürich) - When and how do the media report on parliamentary monitoring?



While evidence of politicization piles up, the discussion on its mechanisms is far from complete. So far, literature has concentrated on the electoral dimension of politicization, leaving aside the question on whether parliament plays a role on it. We present a new dataset of EU related media outputs in order to assess under what conditions they incorporate national parliamentary arenas in Germany, France and the UK. This advances our understanding of the role of national parliaments on the process of politicization of EU policy-making. The findings indicate that parliamentary arena or its players appear more in EU related media the higher the level of EU plenary debate. The influence of electoral Euroscepticism and the level of formal monitoring powers lay mixed results depending on the country.



Valentina Rita Scotti (LUISS, Rome) - The dialogue between European Parliament and EU National Parliaments in the enlargement process: the case of Turkey




The accession process to the EU involving Turkey since 1959 represents an interesting case-study to analyse how member States deal on issues concerning their own identity at the European level. Being at its origins nothing different from any other accession process led by the Union, the one concerning Turkey progressively raised up several accessory issues which obliged member States to face criticalities such as the binding nature of the accession criteria, the possibility to enlarge the Union without altering its nature and, at an in-depth analysis, the nature itself of this organization for which the mere definition of sui generis seems to be not enough. The essay proposes a historical perspective of the Turkish accession process, particularly focusing on the role played by the European Parliament (EP). Then, the essay proposes a comparison between the French and the Italian Parliaments’ positions on this topic, allowing for some conclusive remarks where the consequences at the national and at the European level of such approaches are underlined.


Kerry Whiteside (Sciences Po Paris/Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA) - Representing future generations? From Deliberative Critique to Institutional Propositions




The idea of representing future generations has been advanced by numerous political theorists in the last thirty years. In Europe, this idea has had direct political influence, in the form of environmental constitutional rights and environmental ombudsmen. These institutional innovations aspire to counter the “presentist” bias inherent in representative democracy. My paper first reviews these experiences, in light of the general theory of democratic representation. Representation, I argue, runs up against the limits of its political virtues in relation to matters concerning the distant future. The non-existence of future people makes them impossible subjects of the practice we call representation. Attempts to “represent future generations” channel democratic thinking – futilely — in the direction of proposals for political reforms modeled on “representative” practices: with preferred spokespersons and popular mobilization, parties, elections, seats in the legislature. Inevitably, crucial parts of those practices are left out. The omitted parts are the ones that make representation effective, secure, ethically justified. Understanding how deep this objection goes is a precondition to seeing why concern for future generations is best regarded as a deliberation problem, not a representation problem. Deliberation is what occurs in a broadly inclusive, carefully structured, reflective process of discussion, in which reciprocally-justifiable principles for obligations to future generations are debated among equal participants, and then used to guide decision-making. I explore the political implications of the deliberative position for contemporary representative democracies. From the rapidly-expanding literature on ways of “scaling up” deliberative practices, I draw out two levels for future-oriented deliberative institutions. The Basis-Level calls citizens in egalitarian fashion, not as voters and not as self-chosen activists, but as randomly selected members, for participation in jury-like entities. These are testing-grounds for principles, monitors of policy implementation, and accountability agents in relation to other non-electoral institutions. At a higher, Parliamentary-Level, the deliberative perspective implies creating an independent body charged with evaluating policies in terms of their impact on future generations. Random selection, applied to lists of qualified candidates nominated by organizations in civil society, would help constitute its membership.


Vesco Paskalev (University of Hull) - Towards Discursive Representation in the Supranational Regulation




The traditional forms of democratic representation through parliaments and elections are increasingly challenged not only in the EU, but worldwide. In the face of the raise of supranational regulation originating from apparently unelected bodies, John Dryzek and Simon Niemeyer developed the conception for discursive representation, which is pertinent to cases like the EU, where it is difficult to identify a demos or even a clearly defined group of affected citizens. On this account, for their decision to be democratically legitimate, the rule-makers must actively seek to take into consideration all relevant positions on the given regulatory problem, with the relevant information and associated arguments. Instead of counting the people behind certain position, political process is representative to the extent that it reconstructs all societal concerns (even if few participants are actually able to stand up and speak for these concerns themselves). The paper discusses the adoption of selected examples of European legislation and explores the legitimacy of the process from the perspective of discursive representation. It conceives the increasingly common impact assessments (IA) as fora for such justificatory discourses. As the process of making, approving and contesting an IA involves identification, description and evaluation of the array of relevant discourses on an issue, I argue that it can essentially perform the function of the Chamber of Discourses which Dryzek and Neiemeyer call for. At the very least IAs inform the decision-maker and offer a justification which is acceptable to the various publics, in a way that parliaments usually fail to. In addition, such elaborate justification on the basis of factual assertions exposes the adopted regulation to contestation across borders. While citizens of member state cannot vote in the elections of their neighbour, they can at least be heard when bringing evidence that the pesticides authorised there may pollute the drinking water in their own state. Thus, I conclude that discursive representation, especially in the context of the EU, promises a better way of legitimate public authority and accountable governance.


Hrvoje Butković (IRMO, Zagreb) - The rise of direct democracy in Croatia: Balancing or challenging parliamentary representation?

In 2010 the Croatian Constitution was changed by lowering the requirements for implementation of the national referendums, in order to secure the referendum on Croatian EU membership from the possible failure. Since then Croatia witnessed a sharp increase of the citizen’s initiatives calling for the national referendums. In 2013 the first such initiative, calling for including a traditional definition of a marriage in Croatian Constitution, has successfully been implemented. Despite high controversy over this issue it encouraged similar undertakings and in 2014 on three separate occasion citizens’ initiatives have been started. They requested: i) a prohibition of outsourcing of secondary services in the public sector, ii) a ban on conferring Croatian highways into private concessions and iii) introduction of preferential voting at the national parliamentary elections. These initiatives intended to block major Government’s reform programmes which otherwise could obtain majority backing in Croatian Parliament and therefore they caused tensions between direct and representative democracy in Croatia. Attempting to abate the rising power of direct democracy in September 2014 the Government issued a draft new Law on the referendum which is arguably aimed at narrowing the scope for implementation of the referendums. Strengthening of direct democracy in Croatia could also be explained by the executive domination over the national political system. The modus operandi of Croatian Parliament could be described as reactive, which causes legitimacy problems particularly in the context of the recent EU accession. It could be argued that in Croatia recently discovered appeal of direct democracy created the new environment for the operation of its parliamentary democracy. Starting from the theoretical notions the paper analyses this phenomenon also exploring how relations between these two different mechanisms of democratic representation could best be regulated in the future.


András Bíró-Nagy (Corvinus University, Budapest) - MEPs as agents of two principals: Party cohesion in the European Parliament after enlargement




The aim of this study is to investigate whether the party groups or the national affiliations influence more the voting behaviour of the MEPs. This research demonstrates that the political life of the European Parliament is much more dominated by party politics than the national background. Party cohesion within the EP was already very strong between 2004 and 2009 and this tendency was further strengthened in the 2009-2014 term. Cohesion within the party groups with the most MEPs tend to be the strongest. After the accession of numerous Central and Eastern European countries, party cohesion has not become lower. According to the official voting statistics of the European Parliament, the new member states did not bring more nationalism, but rather further strenghtened the party politics-based character of the EP. The reason of this tendency can be found in the growing powers of the EP – now the stakes are much higher for the party groups based in Brussels and Strasbourg. Therefore party cohesion is much more vital to the parties than to simply prove their ideological coherence. For now, it is an important power tool within the world of European politics.


Johannes Müller Gómez (University of Cologne) - The 2014 elections to the European parliament: Towards a further parliamentarized representation of citizens at the EU level?


In the appointment of the Commission President 2014, the European Parliament successfully asserted itself against the European Council. Does this imply an institutional readjustment enhancing the parliamentary dimension of citizens’ representation at the EU level? After presenting theoretical considerations regarding potential implications of the 2014 elections, the text examines Jean-Claude Juncker’s investiture and the developments of the first nine months of the new legislative term. The analysis focuses on the (new) linkage between the Commission and the Parliament, the internal politics of the EP, and the (new) role of the European Council. The first empirical evidences, in deed, show first patterns of a further parliamentarized functioning of the EU polity. Still, it would be too early to mark the 2014 events as the decisive turning point as for the parliamentarization of the EU.


Olga Eisele (HIS, Vienna) - Mind the (information) gap? Newspaper coverage of the European parliament and its influence on public opinion


The European Parliament is seen as the institution with the greatest legitimizing potential regarding the EU as a whole. While the ‘voice of the people’ started out as a common assembly with virtually no powers at all, it has been equipped with ever more competencies over the course of integration and is today a strong counterpart to the heads of state or government. Against this background, it is puzzling that this year’s EP elections have witnessed an overwhelming success of Eurosceptic parties while voter turnout has not increased. A solution to this puzzle may be found in the information linking ‘remote Brussels and Strasbourg’ with the citizens at home: The EU comes to Europeans mainly by communication through the media, which delivers the basis of information that citizens have to rely on when judging the performance of EU actors. Citizens need information to judge. They need information about political processes to hold political actors accountable and to exercise democratic control. As the core of the relationship of representative and represented, this process of legitimation lays the basis for the public acceptance of democratic governance. The media, hence, can be seen as having a crucial role in defining citizens’ image of their representation. But despite a vivid academic discussion about the EU’s democratic credentials, we still lack in depth analyses of media contents about the EP. Addressing this research gap, the paper introduces a conceptual framework for comparing newspaper coverage about the parliament. It then compares the framing of the EP in newspapers in Finland, Germany and the UK. The period of analysis covers the last two EP elections and routine periods in 2012 and 2011. In addition, the study accounts for the (de-) legitimating potential of newspaper contents more explicitly by investigating legitimacy statements contained in articles. Finally, results are linked to public opinion surveys giving credit to the pivotal role of the media in the EU’s representative democracies.


Petra Pintér (Corvinus University, Budapest) - How the legitimacy gap can be restored through better discussion using social media



This paper is an interdisciplinary study of the media and political science, which illustrates the ‘relocation of politics’ (Bovens et al., 1995) to collective decision-making arenas and new arenas of decision-making (Castiliogne and Warren, 2008). The changing dynamics in legitimacy have various symptoms, including lower election turnouts, the rise of anti-establishment parties and the reduced use of traditional media, which changes the way electors are influenced. These factors combined undermine the representational link between political institutions and citizens (Mair, 2009) and precipitate a ‘legitimacy gap’. With changed dynamics, effective communication could be the key to restoring consensus and cooperation. In order to reshape these changing dynamics and restore greater legitimacy, electors should be involved in agenda-setting and decision-making, which could be achieved by monitoring social media and encouraging effective two-way discussion, giving the electors’ opinion weight. This study examines political agenda-setting and new types of media within the framework of political communication. In the model, the sets represent politics, the media and the public and their intersection represents political communication, in which the public, the media and politics battle constantly for domination over the limited time and space on the agenda.


Zuzana Kasáková (Charles University, Prague) - Career paths of Czech parliamentarians in Brussels



The paper studies the selection and origins of the Czech Members of the European Parliament. Joining the European Union in 2004, the Czechs have elected three cohorts of MEPs. The last one, in office since 2014, represents a milestone in terms of representation. More than two thirds of the Czech MEPs have been newcomers. The elected parliamentarians are of varying political background; some of them had experience with legislative work from the national parliament, some of them had been politically active, some were not even involved in politics before. The ratio of newcomers and their colourful background is particularly interesting given the fact that in the Czech electoral system it is the political parties that have the decisive influence over who gets elected. The aim of the paper is thus twofold. Firstly, based on semi-structured interviews, it analyses how political parties choose their candidates for the European Parliament elections, and what are the motives of selected candidates to stand in the elections. Secondly, it explores whether different career trajectories influence the roles and functions of Czech politicians in the European Parliament. In particular, it tests the hypothesis that MEPs with more experience with first European and second national politics are able to acquire more influential functions in both committees and political families and are more likely to get elected to the committee of their choice.


Anna-Lena Högenauer (University of Luxembourg) - Luxembourg`s MEPs across time: Towards a European career



The literature on political careers points towards a shift in the career patterns of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) over time. While Norris (1999) argued in the late 1990s that politicians tended to make a clear choice between a European career or a domestic career, the more recent literature argues that domestic and European career paths are increasingly intertwined Verzichelli and Edinger 2005). However, whether MEPs regard a European career as the final goal of their career path, or as a stepping stone for a domestic career or as a retirement option can be expected to have an impact on how they exercise their representative functions in two respects. MEPs who wish to pursue a national or European career need to cultivate their image at home, and thus have to maintain a certain amount of localism in their work (Martin 2011). In addition, those wishing to pursue a European career have to actively participate in the work of the EP, in the hope that their skills and commitment will lead to more influential positions in the EP. By contrast, politicians who sees the EP as a retirement option are under less pressure to insure reelection or to gain positions within the EP, and are thus likely to be less active overall, and to be less focused on local interests than their counterparts. This paper thus aims to address the question to what extent the career plans of MEPs influence their work in the European Parliament. It focuses on Luxembourg as a case study. In the first instance, it analyses the career trajectory of Luxembourgish MEPs since 1979 to establish to what extent the EP was seen as a career goal, a stepping-stone or a retirement option, and whether there has been a shift in career choices over time. In the process, it also analyses the impact of variables such as gender, party size and party ideology on the career choices of MEPs. In the second section, it matches the career choices of recent MEPS with their activities in the European Parliament to test the hypotheses about the level and nature of the activities of MEPs.


Emilie Cazenave (College of Europe, Bruges) - Member of the European parliament: “Second chance” or “stepping stone”? A comparison of French and Swedish PES and EPP 2014 candidates’ trajectories



Perceptions of what is to be an MEP vary from one Member state to another. It is thus interesting to test the validity of different political cultures on MEPs’ career. The national archetypes of MEPs have been researched, to understand their sociological characteristics, but their career path and how such function is included within the dynamic of their political career at later stages has yet to be studied. This paper focuses on French and Swedish candidates of 2014 for the Party of European Socialists and European Peoples’ Party, their selection, career and conception of the MEP mandate. For the purpose of this article and to dynamically assess how being a candidate or an MEP affects their career, two political cultures – exclusive and inclusive – have been defined and tested through the lenses of a “grid-group” approach, adapted for the cases. In political science, such approach has mainly been used for political systems and decisional modes. It has not been applied to political parties and the selections of candidates for elections. Yet, such approach indicates the degree of constraint upon individuals’ behaviour and their degree of integration within studied groups. In this respect, the Swedish and French cases belong to distinct groups: one expects diverging results in the application of such approach to their mainstream political parties and peculiarly to the selection of candidates for European elections by such parties. The selection is a national monopoly, where partisanship and professionalization prime. Yet, the considered parties’ openness in the selection and conception of the role of MEP are expected to vary. Similar trends may appear, such as more frequent re-appointments of former MEPs to anchor them on a longer term perspective in the European Parliament. This may discredit a diametrical opposition of French and Swedish political parties that run under the PES’ and EPP’s colours. However, the conclusions can still validate the designed approach if France and Sweden can be compared and moved along the continuums delimited by the ideal typical exclusive and inclusive cultures. Exclusive French parties would remain centred upon Parisian politics and executive national elections, becoming MEP would be a second chance, whereas Swedish parties would tend to be more inclusive in the profile and selection of their candidates or in the perception of the European Parliament and the MEP’s role, rather seen as a stepping stone, nearly equivalent to being a member of the Riksdag.


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