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The Explanatory Variables

The argument put forward in Chapter 3 underlines the impact of constitutional preferences on parliamentary reform choices. It stresses two explanatory factors in particular: parliamentary party support for European integration, and existing domestic rights and capacities of national parliaments. Alternative explanations, instead, emphasize the importance of minority government and conflict in governing coalitions over public policy or the desirability of European integration. Factors that might additionally matter but are compatible with the arguments underlying both of these two alternative points of view are popular Euroscepticism and, of course, the level of authority of the EU. The following discusses the measurement of each of these variables.

Parliamentary Party Support for the European Union and the European Parliament

Chapter 3 put forward two options to approximate empirically whether the party composition of national parliaments tends towards intergovernmental or federal constitutional preferences. The more accurate yet empirically limited choice would be to focus on party support for the EP. A less accurate yet defensible and empirically more suitable alternative is party support for European integration more generally. As discussed, the analysis focuses on the latter, while testing whether the results thus obtained coincide with what an analysis of EP support would deliver.

I use the Chapel Hill and Leonard Ray expert surveys (CH-LR surveys) to measure party support for European integration and for the EP (Bakker et al. 2015; Hooghe et al. 2010; Steenbergen and Marks 2007; Ray 1999). The CH-LR surveys ask experts to position parties according to a number of items related to European integration. They were administered in 1996, 1999, 2002, 2006, and 2010. Moreover, the 1996 survey also asks the experts to identify party positions retrospectively for 1984, 1988, and 1992. In order to obtain information that lies between the survey years, I assume that party positions develop linearly between two adjacent surveys. A few parties are not included in one of two adjacent surveys. In these cases, I take the value of the one that is available. The surveys ask experts to assess the ‘overall orientation of the party leadership towards European integration in 2010 ’ and the ‘position of the party leadership in 2010 on the powers of the European Parliament' on a scale from 1 (‘strongly opposes’) to 7 (‘strongly favors’). The second question which focuses on attitudes towards the EP has been asked only since 1999. On the basis of the responses to these survey items, I create an aggregate measure of parliamentary party support for the EP, which is an average of all parties weighted by the seat share. This operationalization corresponds to the argument that party leaders will seek to build inclusive parliamentary positions in order to avoid differences in constitutional preferences within their parties becoming public as a result of them adopting controversial positions. Note also that the CH-LR survey explicitly asks experts to rate the positions of the party leadership. Thus, they should not already incorporate information on intra-party diversity in constitutional preferences. Parliamentary party support for the EU and the EP will be measured at the beginning of each reform opportunity. However, I use data on EP support from 1999 in the case of the parliamentary opportunity to respond to the Treaty of Amsterdam, which was signed in 1997 and came into force in 1999. This is not ideal but, as discussed in the following paragraphs, changes over time are very limited and, therefore, it makes sense to accept some measurement inaccuracy in exchange for being able to incorporate the information on reactions to Amsterdam in the analysis.

Appendix I shows the development of parliamentary and governmental party support for European integration (Figure A4.2) and for the EP (Figure A4.3) through the course of the reform opportunities countries have had since the Treaty of Amsterdam. Three observations stand out. First, in line with the arguments made so far, parliaments and governments vary in their support for integration and the EP, albeit not between strong supporters and opponents. However, several parliaments, the ones where parties predominantly tend towards intergovernmental views of the right institutions for the EU, are close to or even below the midpoint of the scale, which corresponds to taking a 'neutral' position in the CH-LR surveys. Second, although there are some changes over time, the bigger picture is one of stability. With a few exceptions countries hardly ever move more than one unit on the scale of EP support during the observed period. Third, it makes very little difference whether we examine the support of all parliamentary parties or whether we only look at the sub-set of parties represented in the government. Of course, this is logical to some extent since the governing parties often enjoy a majority and, therefore, strongly affect our seat-weighted measures of support. Yet, governments rarely dominate the parliament entirely so that one would expect noteworthy differences if there was genuine disagreement on the role of the EP between governing and opposition parties. However, the shared national context contributes to relatively similar views of member state parties regarding the ideal constitutional organization of the European polity (Jachtenfuchs etal. 1998; Marcussen etal. 1999). Due to the expectation that parties will seek to build inclusive parliamentary positions, the operationalization incorporating the positions of the whole parliament is closer to the theoretical argument.

 
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