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The Likelihood of Parliamentary Reforms

This chapter also provides an alternative empirical perspective on parliamentary adaptation to integration, namely one focusing on reform choices. Instead of explaining variation in the levels of oversight over time and across countries, the following focuses on the conditions that make it likely or unlikely that changes of oversight institutions happen during reform opportunities. This perspective focuses attention on the incentives or constraints that parliamentary parties face when they are confronted with the question of whether national parliaments should obtain competences in EU affairs. In more technical terms, asking whether or not an institutional change happens is another way to limit the impact of temporal dependencies in the data. Levels of oversight, as studied in the previous section, are obviously quite stable over time and so are the patterns of co-variation with the explanatory variables. The disadvantage of analysing reforms is that the results do not tell us how significant the changes that parties decide on are. Is a reform an incremental adjustment to existing provisions or a major improvement? Therefore, the subsequent section will examine the magnitudes of reforms in greater detail.

Consider first, however, the likelihood of parliamentary reforms. Table 4.5 presents three logistic regression models. The composition in terms of explanatory variables is identical to that of the models above. The first two models, respectively, bring together the variables associated to explanations based on constitutional preferences on the one hand, and to cabinet

Table 4.5 Models of the likelihood of reforms at each reform opportunity













EU support







Domestic committee








Minority government







Cabinet conflict (left-right)







Cabinet conflict (eU)







Popular Euroscepticism




Oversight at the end of










the last RO Constant


























Note: Logistic regressions with country-clustered standard errors. в: Coefficient estimate. SE: Standard error. p.: p-value. RO: Reform opportunity. AIC: Akaike information criterion. BIC: Bayesian information criterion.

Analysing Domestic Adaptation to Integration

configurations on the other. The third model combines all variables as well as a measure of popular Euroscepticism. The main result is also similar to what we have seen earlier. Parliamentary reforms in reaction to European integration are significantly less likely where parliamentary parties are in favour of the EU, and more likely where they tend towards moderate Euroscepticism, which, as argued, can be seen as an inclination to support an intergovernmental institutional design for the EU polity. Unlike in the multivariate analysis of levels of oversight, however, domestic committee strength does not have a significant effect. In turn, unlike what the argument put forward here expects, cabinet conflict over European integration significantly enhances the likelihood of changes in oversight institutions. Furthermore, as one would expect, the strength of oversight institutions before a given reform opportunity negatively affects the probability of a reform. That is, parties in parliaments that already have strong EU-related competences are less likely to enact additional reforms compared to parliaments that have not yet implemented noteworthy institutional change. Comparing the fit of the respective models, the AIC and BIC indicators both favour the first model, which represents arguments stressing constitutional preferences, over the second and third.

In logistic regression models, the coefficients cannot be interpreted directly in terms of the substantive magnitude of the effects of the explanatory variables. Figure 4.4 shows these substantive effects, respectively for parliamentary EU support and cabinet conflict over integration. Due to the small number of observations, the confidence intervals around the effect estimates

The effects of EU support and cabinet conflict on parliamentary reforms in EU affairs

Figure 4.4 The effects of EU support and cabinet conflict on parliamentary reforms in EU affairs

Note: The figures show simulated probabilities (solid line), and 95 per cent confidence intervals (dotted lines), estimated with the help of Clarify (Tomz, Wittenburg, and King 2003), and based, respectively, on the results of Models 1 (panel a) and 2 (panel b) of Table 4.5. The other variables in the models are held at their means, while the existence of a majority government is assumed. The bars in the background and the vertical axis on the right-hand side show the number of observations in the data across the values of the explanatory variables.

are wide. It is clear, nonetheless, that reforms are far more likely in parliaments with party compositions that tend towards EU opposition compared to highly pro-European parliaments. Even at a very conservative estimate, the difference is in the order of 20-30 percentage points—considering only the range of data with significant numbers of cases and the difference between the upper and lower bounds of the confidence intervals. The impact of EU support could, however, be much larger than this estimate. In the case of cabinet conflict, it is evident again that there are few real-world examples of governments suffering from large divides over integration. While the impact could, potentially be similarly large as that of parliamentary EU support, it is, in fact, not clearly visible until we reach levels of cabinet conflict that scarcely exist in the data. Comparing the absence of cabinet conflict to various other conflict levels, there only is a clear difference in the probability of institutional reforms after conflict levels of beyond 1.5. That is to say, in the data underlying these analyses, there are only six cabinets between the mid-1980s and today that are expected to have a higher reform probability due to coalition conflict than the remaining cabinets. Overall, there is thus robust support for an effect of parliamentary parties' EU support on institutional adaptation efforts in national parliaments. An effect of cabinet conflict over integration cannot be ruled out but appears to be empirically truly relevant only for a limited number of real-world examples.

One of the follow-up questions that arise from these results is whether the nature of differentiation opportunities matters. Table A4.6 shows identical models, albeit additionally controlling for the change in the level of EU authority during a reform opportunity. Such changes do not, however, have any consistent effect. While it is assumed in the research design underlying this analysis that reform opportunities arise from developments in European integration, it does not seem to matter whether treaty changes transfer more or less domestic authority to the EU level. This is not entirely surprising, however. From the perspective of domestic actors such as parties, every treaty change that the EU has undertaken in the past has meant significant losses of formal parliamentary authority, and all appear to motivate adaptations in EU- related oversight institutions.

Additional tests support the results. First, replacing the measure of EU support with one for parliamentary EP support yields highly similar results (not shown). Second, the literature suggests that logistic regression models with sparse data, overall or on the occurrence of one of the outcomes, could yield biased results. There are different techniques to try to correct for potential biases including a procedure for rare-events logistic regression by King and Zeng (2001) and estimation through penalized maximum likelihood (Firth 1993; Convey 2008). Applying these approaches does not change the results in relevant ways (see Tables A4.7 and A4.8).

In conclusion, the results of the analysis of the likelihood that parliamentary parties make use of reform opportunities are in line with the findings presented in the previous section to the extent that they also stress the important impact of partisan support for European integration. They deviate in two important respects, however. First, there is no effect of domestic institutions on reform choices, even though variation in the strength of parliamentary committee systems correlates with differences in the level of oversight across countries and over time. The next section suggests that the solution to this puzzling finding may be that existing institutions constrain how substantive parliamentary reform efforts are. Second, the analysis of reform opportunities suggest that cabinet conflict might sometimes give rise to institutional reforms, even though the political conditions underlying this effect are actually rare, existing only in very few countries and reform opportunities. The rare occurrence of relevant conflicts over the EU among governing parties might be the reason for why we do not see this effect in the analysis of variation in levels of oversight.

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