The effects of MEPS’ office-seeking ambition on their legislative behaviour


Promoteurs : Min Reuchamps, Virginie Van Ingelgom

Chercheur : Jérémy Dodeigne

Financement : Chargé de recherche F.R.S. – FNRS

The European Parliament (EP)’s authority has expanded dramatically over the last decades. The legislative behaviour of its members (MEPs) has nowadays very concrete effects on the European Union (EU)’s policy-making affecting 500 million of EU citizens. According to the literature, the EP legislative behaviour has to be mainly explained by the positioning of cohesive European parliamentary groups (EPGs) along the ‘left-right’ structural and, to a lesser extent, a ‘pro-con EU integration’ dimension. Despite this key finding in the literature, MEPs’ defections from EPGs’ lines remain very substantial and much higher than in national parliaments. Goals other than ‘left-right’ policy-seeking strategies must therefore explain EP legislative behaviour: what are the factors explaining MEPs’ legislative behaviour? Answering this question, the project tests the effects of MEPs’ office-seeking ambition, i.e. prospects for offices within and outside the EP, on their legislative behaviour. To that end, I develop a comprehensive analysis over three legislative terms (1999-2014) covering 1.871 MEPs. The research design sets out a two-steps analysis. First, it identifies and describes variation in MEPs’ office-seeking ambition across EPGs, countries, regions, and time (RQ1). To do so, ambition is operationalized via a longitudinal and multilevel analysis of careers beyond “methodological nationalism” (i.e. not only European and national offices but also regional offices). Secondly, it tests hypotheses explaining to what extent MEPs’ office-seeking ambition shapes their voting behaviour (RQ2) and broader parliamentary activities (RQ3). In a final theory-building stage, my findings are completed by semi-structured interviews to better understand “typical” and “deviant” cases observed. Overall, the MEPs’ behaviour project aims to develop our knowledge of the EP legislation behaviour at the micro level of analysis while contributing to ongoing debates on policy-making and decision-making in the EU.