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Article

Parliaments in Foreign Policy  

Wolfgang Wagner

Parliaments differ enormously in their foreign policy competences. This is best documented in the area of “war powers,” understood as decision-making on the use of force. In other issue areas, such as treaty-making, defense budgets, sanctions, or arms exports, differences across countries are far less researched. The available data, however, suggest that differences in those areas are no smaller than in the area of war powers. What is more, the data also show that parliamentary competences across issue areas within particular countries also differ a lot. Parliaments are not strong or weak across the full spectrum of foreign policy competences. Instead, parliamentary competences are country-specific as well as issue-specific. A general trend toward a parliamentarization or deparliamentarization of foreign affairs is not discernible. Partly inspired by institutionalist versions of Democratic Peace Theory, numerous studies have examined whether parliamentary powers have any effect on countries’ propensity to use armed force. Case-study research tends to find that variation in parliamentary powers affects decision-making on the use of force but also emphasizes that the effects of institutional constraints need to be understood in conjunction with the preferences of the public, parliament, and government. Statistical studies have found some evidence for a “parliamentary peace,” but because of problematic indicators and a lack of controls, doubts remain about the robustness and significance of this effect. In any case, theories of legislative–executive relations in parliamentary systems suggest that open confrontations between parliament and government are exceptional. Instead of an institutional constraint in a system of checks and balances, parliamentary war powers can be understood as an additional reassurance against unpopular decisions to use force. Most studies of parliaments in foreign affairs are characterized by “methodological nationalism”—that is, the assumption that nation-states are the natural units of analysis. However, parliaments’ activities in foreign affairs are not exhausted by their monitoring and scrutiny of national executives. In addition, there is a long tradition of “parliamentary diplomacy” and engagement in interparliamentary institutions. The most powerful parliamentary actor beyond the nation-state is the European Parliament. Although its formal competences are limited, it has been very effective in using its powers to influence European foreign policy.

Article

The European Parliament: A Normal Parliament in a Polity of a Different Kind  

Ariadna Ripoll Servent and Christilla Roederer-Rynning

The European Parliament (EP) has grown from a “talking shop” to a fully-fledged legislative body in the European Union (EU)’s bicameral system. This process of communautarization and parliamentarization has generated considerable attention in the academic field. Furthermore, in today’s political environment—characterized by the polarization of public opinion, Brexit, the lingering effects of the Eurozone crisis, and the steady rise of Euroskeptical and radical forces throughout Europe—the role of the European Parliament (EP) is perhaps more critical to understand and assess than ever before. An overarching question in the literature is how “normal” the EP has become. Drawing on David Easton’s political systems approach, we examine this condition in three sub-literatures: the literature on inputs (demands), the literature on withinputs (inter-institutional processing of inputs), and the literature on outputs (EP decisions and actions, and the impact thereof). Building on this literature and contributing to the ongoing debate on the nature and significance of the EP, we propose to conceptualize the EP as “a normal parliament in a polity of a different kind.” This paradoxical conceptualization reflects abundant insights that, despite the EP gaining comprehensive lawmaking powers that are quite unparalleled in the world of international politics, its functioning and significance remain profoundly, distinctly, and probably durably, shaped by the multilevel nature of EU politics.

Article

Budgetary Treaties and European Union Politics  

Finn Laursen

In Europe, two budgetary treaties were adopted in 1970 and 1975, respectively. They changed the budgetary procedures on the founding treaties of the European Communities (EC). The main reason was the introduction of the concept of “own resources” in 1970 to replace national financial contributions. It was decided that customs duties, agricultural levies, and a certain percentage of the value-added tax (VAT) in the Member States should go to the EC budget. Since that would remove the budget control of the national parliaments, it was argued that the European Parliament should have budgetary powers. The argument was especially developed by the European Parliament. The Member States eventually accepted the argument, but with some hesitation, so in the end the Parliament got less than it demanded. The Member States focused on control and the Parliament focused on legitimacy. The Commission fought for its own prerogatives. Apart from empowering the European Parliament, the second budgetary treaty in 1975 also created the European Court of Auditors. And prior to the signing of the treaty, the institutions (Commission, Council, and Parliament) had also agreed to introduce a conciliation procedure as a part of the budgetary process. This was done by an inter-institutional agreement outside the new treaty. Tracing the processes of adopting the two treaties shows that there was a great deal of inter-institutional bargaining, but also inter-governmental bargaining within the Council of Ministers, where France arguably was the “laggard” in 1970, joined by Denmark in 1975, after the first enlargement in 1973. The United Kingdom, preoccupied with its renegotiation of membership and a referendum in June 1975, had a relatively low profile in the negotiations. Scholars have debated the explanatory power of the liberal intergovernmental approach (with emphasis on the role of the Member States), contrasting it with some institutionalist approach considered better suited to explaining these treaty reforms. Leading scholars have especially applied sociological and historical institutionalism.

Article

The European Union’s Community Method: Foundations and Evolution  

Youri Devuyst

The objective of the Community method is to ensure that, in the making, implementing, and enforcing of European Union law and policy, (a) the general European interest is safeguarded by the independent European Commission, which is responsible for proposing new EU legislation; (b) democratic representation of the people and the Member States takes place at the level of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which together form the EU’s legislature; and (c) judicial control is secured by the European Court of Justice. The article traces the historical origins and evolution of the Community method and assesses its continuing relevance against the background of alternative ways of decision making and coordination such as “intense transgovernmentalism” or “deliberative intergovernmentalism,” in which the European Council plays the leading role.

Article

Veto Player Approaches in Foreign Policy Analysis  

Kai Oppermann and Klaus Brummer

The main contribution of veto player approaches in Comparative Politics has been to the study of policy stability and change. Specifically, the argument is that the possibility and conditions for policy change in a given polity and issue area depend on the configuration of veto players and veto points. Most notably, veto player approaches have introduced a general conceptual tool kit that has facilitated the comparative analysis of the dynamics and obstacles of policy change across (democratic and non-democratic) regime types and public policy areas. However, in Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), references to veto players and veto points tend to be hardly systematic and are mainly used to highlight domestic constraints on preference formation, decision-making, or responses to international crises. Hence, the theoretical and empirical potential of veto player approaches for FPA has not yet been systematically explored. Against this background, the article makes the case that “taking veto players seriously” has a lot to offer to the study of foreign policy. While there are differences between applying veto player approaches in public policy and in FPA (e.g., with respect to the more informal process of foreign policy decision-making or the larger policy discretion of the agenda setter in foreign policy), those differences must not be overdone. Indeed, they point to certain shifts in emphasis and specific methodological challenges for veto player studies in foreign policy, but do not call into question the basic explanatory logic of veto player approaches or their transferability from one field to the other. What is more, the article shows that multiple links between veto player approaches and FPA theories can be established. Generally speaking, veto player approaches have immense potential in reinvigorating comparative foreign policy analysis. More specifically, they can be linked up to FPA works on the role of parliaments, coalitions, or leadership styles as well as on those discussing change, effectiveness, or fiascos in foreign policy.

Article

The United Kingdom and the European Union  

Alasdair Blair

Since the end of World War II a key question that successive U.K. governments have faced is what position the country should occupy in global affairs. Such a question stemmed from the legacy of Empire, which both offered global connections and at the same time financial demands in terms of the need to maintain a global footing. These issues came to a head when the United Kingdom applied (unsuccessfully) to join the European Community (the forerunner of the European Union (EU)) in the 1960s when the country was reappraising its position in the world. And while the United Kingdom eventually joined the Community in 1973, there remained an underlying skepticism about membership within the public at large as well as within sections of the Conservative and Labour parties. This suspicion gained more traction from the 1990s onward as the then EU appeared to be moving to a deeper level of integration in the wake of the Maastricht Treaty. This spurred on Euroskeptics in the United Kingdom to campaign for independence. To put a lid on this pressure for reform, David Cameron held a referendum on U.K. membership in 2016. His gamble that this would once and for all seal the United Kingdom within the EU by closing down the issue of withdrawal did not actually materialize, as the electorate voted to leave, which in turn set the country on a path to depart the EU in 2020. Yet, despite these developments, just as was the case in 1945, the United Kingdom is in many ways still searching for a role in the world in 2020.

Article

Italy and the European Union  

Federiga Bindi

Italy is a founding member state of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and, subsequently, the European Economic Community (EEC). At the time, membership meant anchoring the newborn Italian democracy, regaining international respectability after the Fascist period renewed vest internationally , and securing much-needed economic support to boost development. While in the 1950s the left side of the political spectrum vehemently opposed ECSC/EEC membership, starting with the late 1980s, European integration became the most important pillar of Italian foreign policy, an issue of shared consensus among different partiesa. The golden period for Italy – that is the phase when Italy was at the peak of its influence in the Communities - was the decade ranging from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s,. At the time, Italian politicians such as Giulio Andreotti played fundamental roles in key moments of EEC/EU history: enlargement to the south, the single market, the Treaty of the European Union, and especially the creation of the euro are all key events in the history of the European Union which is safe to say would have never happened without the skillful contribution of Italy’s key government actors of the time. As European integration started again to be a contentious issue in domestic politics, so declined Italy’s influence. In more recent years: despite Italy’s formal status as a “big” member of the EU, Rome became less relevant than Madrid in EU decision making procedures. The parochial attitude of Italian elites, the incapacity of long-term programming, and relative government instability are all factors that have contributed to reducing the role of Italy in the EU.

Article

The Nice Treaty: Reforming European Union Institutions in Anticipation of Eastern Enlargements  

Finn Laursen

The Nice Treaty negotiated during the year 2000, signed in 2001 and in force from 2003, focused on institutional changes considered necessary, especially by the larger member states, for the anticipated large enlargement of the European Union with several central and eastern European countries. Efforts to adopt such changes in the Amsterdam Treaty negotiations in 1996–1997 had failed. The Nice Treaty therefore dealt with what was known as the “Amsterdam leftovers,” namely size and composition of the European Commission, reweighting of votes in the Council of Ministers, and increased use of qualified majority voting in the Council. Concerning the reweighting of votes the intergovernmental conference agreed to increase the number of votes per member state, but the larger member states got a relatively larger increase that the smaller member states. This should make it more difficult for the smaller member states to dominate in the future, something feared by the larger states. Concerning the Commission, it was decided that each member state would nominate one commissioner in the future from January 1, 2005. When the membership of the union reached 27 the size would have to be reduced. How much and how would be decided later. Concerning the use of qualified majority voting the decision was to extend the use to some policy areas from the entry into force of the new treaty and for some policy areas considered more controversial the extension would take place later. For the most controversial areas no extension to qualified majority voting was considered. During the intergovernmental conference, which negotiated the new treaty, the topic of “enhanced cooperation” was added. Most of these topics were quite controversial, and afterward there was a feeling that the treaty did not adequately deal with all the issues. This in turn led to further efforts to improve the institutions, first in the failed Constitutional Treaty (2004) and eventually in the successful Lisbon Treaty (2007).