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Home arrow Political science arrow Constitutional preferences and parliamentary reform: explaining national parliaments adaptation to European integration

Analysing Domestic Adaptation to European Integration Empirically


This chapter empirically tests the arguments of Chapter 3. Recall the two main expectations—parliamentary adaptation to European integration will be likely and strong in countries where parties are supportive of the EU and the EP, and likewise where parliaments already have strong institutional competences in domestic policy-making. The rationale underlying these expectations is that partisan support for integration reflects inclinations towards intergovernmental or federal constitutional preferences. Where the partisan compositions of member state parliaments tend towards intergovernmental views of the EU, they prefer the creation of institutional rights and capacities in EU affairs for national parliaments. Where federalist standpoints prevail, the establishment and empowerment of the EP is instead seen as the right way to anchor the exercise of public authority at the European level in democratic procedures. The institutional rights and capacities that parliaments have at the national level matter because they give expression to constitutional preferences that have become consensual in domestic politics and constrain the range of institutional choices policy-makers consider appropriate for the EU polity.

The empirical approach prevailing in the literature so far is to compare the strength of oversight institutions in different countries. The aim, then, is to explain variation in the level of oversight across countries and over time. Thus, for instance, Bergman (2000) focuses on the mid-1990s and shows bivariate correlations between his assessment of the strength of EU-related parliamentary competences and various variables. Saalfeld (2005) also studies levels of oversight from about the same point in time, trying to predict the likelihood that a parliament has weak as opposed to at least moderately strong oversight institutions. Raunio (2005) conducts a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) of levels of oversight at around 2000. Karlas (2012) applies a QCA and bivariate correlations to data from the late 2000s. Winzen (2013) analyses levels of oversight in each year from 1984 to 2006, using the same data as presented in the previous chapters.

This chapter presents two analyses. First, in order to provide a comparison to the aforementioned studies, the chapter examines variation in the level of oversight. Second, in order to deepen our empirical knowledge further, it presents a different empirical approach focusing on the reform opportunity, that is, a point in time when we know that parliamentary parties and parliamentarians had to consider whether they wanted to implement reforms in response to the deepening of European integration. Whereas the approaches in the existing literature yield insights into the correlates of oversight institutions, this approach shifts the focus to conditions that affect the probability that parties and parliamentarians will take action when the opportunity arises. In this sense, the approach is better suited to understanding the constraints or incentives that parliamentary actors face than the focus on levels of oversight. What is taken for granted, however, is that the deepening of European integration is the trigger that motivates parliamentarians to consider reforms, even if they might ultimately not act. Making this assumption appears to be reasonable given that the literature largely agrees that, without the deepening of EU authority since the 1980s, we would not have seen the development of EU-related parliamentary competences in the member states (Norton 1995; Dimitrakopoulos 2001; Raunio and Hix 2000; Winzen 2013).

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