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Explaining Parliamentarians' Preferences for a Direct Role at the European Level

Chapter 3 argued that political parties in the member states have deeply rooted preferences as to the constitutional organization of the EU polity (Jachtenfuchs et al. 1998). Depending on their ideology and national context, they tend towards intergovernmental or federal conceptions of how EU institutions should be designed. We have also seen then that partisan visions of the political organization of the EU actually display more nuance than merely shifting between intergovernmentalism or federalism. Yet, regarding the question of whether national parliaments should acquire EU-related rights and capacities, the main divide still lies between these two broad camps in the debate over the development of European integration. Parties tending towards intergovernmentalism stress the importance of national parliamentary rights; advocates of federal political organization put emphasis on empowering the EP (Jachtenfuchs et al. 1998; Hooghe et al. 2002; Rittberger 2005; Winzen et al. 2015). Chapter 3 further argued that informal European norms of democratic governance as well as formal national institutions shape partisan preferences regarding parliamentary reform choices. Formal and informal institutions matter because they reflect past constitutional conflicts and preferences that have become widely shared among relevant policy-makers and that shape the range of institutional designs that these policy-makers consider appropriate for the EU and for their countries (Marcussen etal. 1999; Dimitrakopoulos 2001; Schmidt 2006).

Whereas the previous chapters focused on political parties, this chapter investigates preferences of individual parliamentarians. The argument that parties hold systematic constitutional preferences can, however, be extended to the individual level. Chapter 3 already discussed that parties, in fact, harbour considerable diversity in terms of their rank-and-file members' positions on how the EU should be designed. While, for instance, party leaders' positions on whether efforts to strengthen parliamentary rights in EU policy-making should focus on the EP or national parliaments vary (Hooghe et al. 2002; Winzen et al. 2015), each party also displays a broad range of internal views among the rank-and-file membership of the parliamentary group (Wessels 2005; see also Jachtenfuchs et al. 1998). At the same time, the shared national institutional context also contributes to relative similarity in constitutional preferences among the actors of any given country. The internal diversity of political parties, and the relative similarity of views within national contexts, encourages and helps party leaders to seek inclusive parliamentary positions on institutional reforms. In particular regarding the question of whether national parliaments should have strong EU-related rights and capacities, party leaders stand to gain little from adopting competitive positions that could ignite conflict between and within parties, thus displaying the lack of intra-party homogeneity to the electorate. The point, then, is that constitutional preferences exist at the level of individual parliamentarians, and they matter, owing to the need for leaders to build inclusive parliamentary positions.

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