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This article considers the emergence of a cohesive political elite within the European Parliament. Moving from a short review of the literature and drawing on some preliminary data, the paper discusses alternative hypotheses to explain the recruitment and career pattern of MEPs and introduces a typology of members. Afterwards, the paper compares representatives of the new EU member states with the ‘pioneer parliamentarians’ elected in 1979 and with their colleagues elected in the 15 countries of the ‘old’ European Union. Signs of a new pattern of European political career appear to be emerging, thus providing a new possible set of explanatory hypotheses about the evolution of European Union representatives. This article is a preliminary result of the work developed on MEPs' cross-national convergence in the context of the network EurElite, a project sponsored by the European Science Foundation. We want to thank the other members of the EurElite task force on MEPs, Stefaan Fiers, Ulrik Kjaer and Michael Rush, as well as the two directors of EurElite, Heinrich Best and Maurizio Cotta, for their valuable comments. We also would like to thank our colleagues from Central-Eastern Europe for providing the available data for the ACC-10 MEPs: Witek Betkiewicz (Poland), Béla Keszegh (Hungary and Slovakia), Mindaugas Kuklys (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), and Lukás Linek (Czech Republic). Stefan Jahr has also been involved in the definition of the codebook and in the process of data elaboration.
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A Critical Juncture? The 2004 European
Elections and the Making of a
Supranational Elite
LUCA VERZICHELLI and MICHAEL EDINGER
This article considers the emergence of a cohesive political elite within the European
Parliament. Moving from a short review of the literature and drawing on some prelimi-
nary data, the paper discusses alternative hypotheses to explain the recruitment and
career pattern of MEPs and introduces a typology of members. Afterwards, the
paper compares representatives of the new EU member states with the ‘pioneer parlia-
mentarians’ elected in 1979 and with their colleagues elected in the 15 countries of the
‘old’ European Union. Signs of a new pattern of European political career appear to
be emerging, thus providing a new possible set of explanatory hypotheses about the
evolution of European Union representatives.
After extensive debates and several scientific works analysing the historical
importance of a directly elected body of supranational representatives,
about 25 years ago, at the time of the first European elections, the discussion
on the role of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), their socio-
political profiles and their patterns of political careers had been largely
neglected. Only recently, broad research programmes focusing on parliamen-
tary representation and patterns of voting behaviour within the EP arena
1
have
shed light on the evolution of specific aspects of the European representative
elite. However, the empirical study of this elite group is still underdeveloped:
as three eminent scholars have recently pointed out, the literature on the EP is
Luca Verzichelli is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Siena. Michael
Edinger is Research Assistant of Political Science at the University of Jena/Collaborative
Research Unit 580.
This article is a preliminary result of the work developed on MEPs’ cross-national convergence in
the context of the network EurElite, a project sponsored by the European Science Foundation. We
want to thank the other members of the EurElite task force on MEPs, Stefaan Fiers, Ulrik Kjaer
and Michael Rush, as well as the two directors of EurElite, Heinrich Best and Maurizio Cotta, for
their valuable comments. We also would like to thank our colleagues from Central-Eastern Europe
for providing the available data for the ACC-10 MEPs: Witek Betkiewicz (Poland), Be
´la Keszegh
(Hungary and Slovakia), Mindaugas Kuklys (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), and Luka
´s Linek (Czech
Republic). Stefan Jahr has also been involved in the definition of the codebook and in the process
of data elaboration.
The Journal of Legislative Studies, Vol.11, No.2, Summer 2005, pp.254–274
ISSN 1357-2334 print=1743-9337 online
DOI: 10.1080=13572330500166618 #2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd
today centred mainly on four dimensions: the historical development and the
legal functions of the parliament, political behaviours observed during the
European elections, the patterns of political competition within the EP and
the inter-institutional relationships in the context of the EU system.
2
Nowadays, with the further strengthening of the European Parliament
within the institutional system of the EU as set out in the Constitution, the
time seems ripe for more thorough investigations into its members. MEPs,
after all, represent an ever more important component of the political class
in all the EU countries. This is partly due to the EP’s institutional evolution
and its growing impact on EU political outcomes, but it is also connected to
the new structure of opportunities characterising the daily life of European
representatives. MEPs, in fact, display peculiar attitudes and orientations,
which make them progressively ‘different’ from their domestic colleagues.
Moreover, they tend to share clear-cut ideas on European integration: gener-
ally, they are more oriented to a certain Europhilia, but sometimes they even
demonstrate clear Eurosceptical ideas; they are more inclined to persuade and
negotiate with colleagues from other countries than to ‘defend’ a given con-
stituency.
3
Finally, their position in the context of Euro-parties seems to be
more significant than in the past, and some preliminary data on bi-directionality
of political careers indicate that there is room for a successful ‘descending’
pathway from European representative positions to domestic top elite positions
(typically, the ministerial offices). In other words, being elected within the EP
can provide significant advantages both for those who want to have good
results in a more and more important sort of ‘political champions league’ and
for those who are preparing themselves to ‘win something important’ at the dom-
estic level.
The aim of this paper is to recall the problem of the emergence of a new
cohesive and significant body of representatives within the EU, who have a
relevant role in transforming political representation on the ‘old continent’.
Starting with a brief review of the literature, in the next section we will
present the cognitive problems that need to be addressed and will sketch the
analytical framework that can help in doing so. The idea here is not to intro-
duce a comprehensive framework but rather to point to crucial tools and
dimensions for further research on parliamentarians in the multi-level political
system of the European Union. Such an outline of the analytical framework
leads us to some working hypotheses, illustrated in the second paragraph,
that are useful to structure and to guide the empirical research. The third
paragraph discusses the evolution of the MEPs’ recruitment process and
their career profiles over time. It makes use of aggregate data indicating the
capability of MEPs to impose themselves as an alternative and relatively
cohesive bulk of politicians, thus marking the differences between ‘European
representatives’ and ‘domestic political elites’. Subsequently, we propose
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 255
a preliminary analysis of the implications that the 2004 enlargement has had
on the emergence of a ‘European representative elite’ based on some fresh
data from the 2004 elections. Finally, a short conclusive section recapitulates
the main findings of this exploration and illustrates the possible implications
for a new research agenda to be carried out in the near future.
THE ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK
The recent literature on the transformation of MEPs as a representative elite is
focused above all on two empirical dimensions. On the one hand, scientific
works dealing with the problem of the institutional role of the EP have re-
introduced the idea of the possible development of a new and relatively
important network of politicians within the Strasbourg/Brussels assembly.
4
Such an approach considers biographical and career variables as indicators
of growing political weight and visibility. However, the main focus of in-
vestigation in this literature is the transformation of the ‘pro-European
orientations’ of European parliamentarians.
On the other hand, several works grounded on the idea that the EP today
represents a decisive arena creating new political attitudes
5
are normally
oriented towards dealing with the data about the changing representational
roles of MEPs. According to these studies, MEPs today represent a complex
elite group whose increasing responsibilities towards ‘multiple constituencies’
bring them to form new attitudes and behaviours. Among the other things, they
would have recently adopted some ‘core values of the institution’, progress-
ively assuming a marked ‘European’ outlook. Here the going native hypoth-
esis is under discussion, notwithstanding the fact that Roger Scully does not
find solid empirical evidence supporting it:
6
in a few words, the thesis
points out that, as often happened in the early days of national parliaments,
the MEPs would have found some reasons of convergence in their day-to-day
activities. The latter argument is somehow connected to another phenomenon
receiving growing scientific attention: the issue of the ‘legislative conver-
gence’ among trans-national parliamentary delegations and the broader ques-
tion of the creation (within the EP) of a ‘Euro-party system’.
7
Besides these arguments, a third empirical dimension seems to be increas-
ingly important: the emergence of a supranational ‘critical mass’ of politicians
engaged on the supranational scene, on the basis of new specific recruitment
patterns and career trajectories. The question is not new, having been exten-
sively debated in the past;
8
nonetheless, the empirical examination of such a
dimension has been largely neglected. Even recent analysis on MEPs’ and
national MPs’ recruitment by Pippa Norris pushes the research towards this
direction, confirming a certain degree of institutionalisation of the process
of recruitment into the EP,
9
but it does not add anything on the nature of
256 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
this process compared to the ‘classical’ patterns of institutionalisation of dom-
estic representative elites.
The notion of a supranational class of politicians re-emerges today, in a
new and fascinating way. With the 2004 EU enlargement and the occurrence
of a legal incompatibility between the position of MEP and the highest repre-
sentative offices at the domestic level, the rise of an autonomous body of
elected representatives
10
can determine crucial changes in the structure of
the EU’s political class. More precisely, we have to investigate further the fol-
lowing questions: are we coping with the consolidation of a numerically sig-
nificant core group of European politicians, who find their ‘natural’ locus of
political representation within the EP? Or perhaps we should take into con-
sideration specific country-related factors, which impact on this process in
different ways (variance among the delegations of particularly ‘Europeanised
parties’, duration of EC/EU membership, and the like).
In order to unpack these questions, it will be crucial to explore the different
patterns of recruitment and career of the elite group under discussion, in the
light of a double line of comparison. In a first instance, we can compare dom-
estic MPs vis a
`vis ‘supra-national’ MPs. That is to say, to take into account all
the possible country-specific variables and focusing on the equalities and
inequalities that, at different levels of representation, should characterise the
European representative elite today. Secondly, we can compare the new
elite group of MEPs in a diachronic way, looking for higher degrees of coher-
ence (in principle, the maximum possible level of coherence) among the
MEPs, some 25 years after the first direct election to the EP. In other
words, the hypothesis here is that the common mission within the suprana-
tional body could overcome the traditional differences among national rep-
resentation and weaken some country-specific explanations of the
representative elite. Such a development might be accompanied by (slight)
changes in the recruitment pattern paving the way for a group of new MEPs
to have more specific training and political experience, thus determining a
new ‘type’ of supranational representative.
Both lines of comparative research may be viewed as components of a
broader analytical framework. Such a framework should help us to begin pur-
suing a twofold objective: on the one hand, the empirical study of sociological
and political profiles of MEPs seems in fact to be a necessary step in order to
complete our empirical knowledge of current political elites in Europe. The
importance of this undertaking is further stressed from the perspective of
exploring the degree of convergence among the members of these elites.
11
On the other hand, the study of elite convergence can be a useful tool to
measure the degree of institutionalisation reached by a ‘legislature’ (though
still sui generis) like the EP, in a critical moment of the process of European
integration.
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 257
The institutional ‘maturity’ of the EP should also be reflected in the type of
politicians it attracts. There are two aspects of such maturity which can be
addressed by synchronic and diachronic analyses. First, might institutional
maturity imply that European representatives from the older national delegations
display more unity and cohesion in comparison to those coming from the
younger member states? A positive answer would mean that membership dur-
ation is a crucial factor for convergence. Second, a comparison between the
initial composition of the EP in 1979 and its current composition with the new
members from the 2004 accession countries seems worthwhile too. Here one
would expect more Europe-oriented MEPs entering the Strasbourg assembly
compared to the initial situation a quarter of a century ago. It indicates once
more how complex thorough research into the body of European representatives
may become once the full scale of comparative scenarios is taken into account.
Another way of approaching this complexity is to discuss a new tentative
typology of MEPs (Figure 1) based on two dimensions: a first dimension
recalls the ‘usual’ classification between specialised and general competences
of representatives, but it distinguishes when the ‘specialisation’ is ‘local’ or
‘European’-oriented. The second dimension has to do with the changing
impact of domestic political careers on MEPs’ career trajectories.
12
Thus,
deputies in Strasbourg who enter the EP following their service in the national
parliament (once a very frequent occurrence) fall into two distinct categories:
the ‘pensioners’ for whom the EP mandate comes close to a golden parachute,
and the Euro-insiders that were involved in European affairs long before their
arrival at the Strasbourg parliament. Another type of representative who
would carry on populating the EP is the stepping-stone politician, a broad cat-
egory of MEP who shows rather different degrees of ‘autonomy’ from the
domestic patterns of political career, and are ‘in Europe by accident’, since
their political commitment remains clearly oriented to local or national
interests.
FIGURE 1
TOWARDS A TYPOLOGY OF MEPs
258 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
On the other hand, it is possible to argue that recent elections should have
increased the number of Euro-expert politicians (representatives with a signifi-
cant domestic career but committed to supranational issues) and Euro-politicians
(MEPs directly recruited with the chance of a career at the supranational
level). Perhaps we could also argue that a sub-category of young stepping-
stone minded politicians would assume, with the passing of time, a less
marked ‘local’ vocation, in which a career in the EP is considered at least as
a valid alternative to the domestic appointment. In other words, if many fresh
MEPs would probably continue being committed to ‘traditional’ domestic
careers, others would invest more into European politics. The latter, therefore,
should be counted in an ideal ‘EU political class’ (delineated in Figure 1 by the
grey area); nonetheless they cannot be labelled as Euro-politicians.
SOME WORKING HYPOTHESES
We can now transform the cognitive problems described above in more
comprehensive arguments to be approached in future research. We highlight
at least three interesting fields of investigation, and a larger number of
broad interpretative hypotheses behind them.
The first argument pertains to the comparison between the political profiles
of national MPs and MEPs: what do we expect from this exercise today? One
can depict a diachronic process showing the convergence among the profiles of
supranational representatives and the emergence of specific Euro-competencies
and peculiar political backgrounds among MEPs. This would bring support to the
hypothesis of an emerging supranational pattern of political career.
An idea that is antithetical to the latter argument, but would confirm some
degree of convergence in the EP, is the increase of MEPs using this position as
a stepping-stone for different political careers. This proposition hides another
possible hypothesis which can be summarised as follows: in an EU system
incrementally characterised by multi-level policies, the EP will be more and
more important, and in a way somehow independent from its actual power,
as a political position which enables national politicians to gain specific com-
petences, therefore providing them with the opportunity to return to domestic
politics with a more relevant role, or otherwise to aspire to other supranational
offices. The stepping-stone hypothesis, in other words, implies interesting
elements of change in terms of stability, visibility and European specialisation
of MEPs, but besides the decline of the ‘traditional-domestic’ concept (MEP
position as stepping-stone towards national politics) one can imagine a
minority of MEPs aiming to reach higher positions in Europe. The available
data for Germany and Denmark, anyway, reveal that the successful transfer
from the EP to domestic political positions is the exception rather than the
rule
12
. Such experience provides further arguments for a shift of career
focus and ambitions among at least some of the MEPs.
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 259
A third hypothesis, completely adverse to the first one, is based on the
idea of a ‘non-significant’ convergence among country delegations. Follow-
ing this argument, MEPs are expected to reproduce ‘national’ models of
recruitment and careers, mainly due to the orientation of domestic actors
(national parties). The growth of the EP as an institutional arena is not
under discussion, but differently from the traditional historical processes
marking the boundedness of national parliaments (that is, the limits within
which national parliaments are held), the institutionalisation of this peculiar
assembly should not be based on clear cohesion among the career expec-
tations of its components.
These general arguments seem to create alternative pictures of the
current European representative elite: one can imagine the prospect of a
fully integrated group of European representatives, or perhaps it can be pos-
tulated that the existence of specific competences and common career pro-
spects among MEPs would not erase the lines of differences between
countries. Finally, one can also say that the perspective of a significant
‘Euro-elite’ is very unlikely, considering the persistence of the ‘subordina-
tion’ of this political role to the well-grounded and unchallenged patterns of
domestic careers.
In reality, previous analyses seem to suggest that the incremental and
rather slow process of the EP gaining power and the difficult Europeanisation
of parties produce a high degree of uncertainty within the representative
elite.
13
Therefore, we can argue that many ‘types’ of politician, with rather
different expectations, will carry on populating the EP in the near future.
But, for the same reasons, we cannot negate a priori the emergence of some
interesting (although relative) signs of the emergence of a critical mass of
EU representatives.
EVOLUTION OF MEPs’ RECRUITMENT AND CAREER AND SOME FIRST
HINTS FROM THE 2004 ELECTIONS
Has a real class of new European representatives emerged in the last 25 years?
To answer this question is difficult, because of both the scarcity of data and the
multi-dimensional nature of the problem. Nevertheless, as noted above, the lit-
erature has shed light on this point.
14
We shall roughly summarise such evi-
dence, before presenting the first indications about the recruitment and
circulation of MEPs in 2004.
With regard to the evidence of change, we should mention the relative
decline of turnover: the percentage of newcomers elected in the EP between
1984 and 1999, although much higher than the usual renewal rate of European
domestic parliaments, has been reduced to about 40 per cent. Therefore, we
cannot isolate the same process of boundness included in Polsby’s classic
260 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
notion of institutionalisation,
15
but we are nonetheless able to distinguish a
core group of long-standing MEPs.
The second empirical evidence indicating a growing ‘political autonomy’
of EP representatives is the disappearance of the dual mandate (the simul-
taneous detection of a seat in the EP and in the national parliament) and the
diminishing of substitutions during the legislature, roughly decreasing from
about 20 per cent in the first term to less than ten per cent in the fifth legislature.
The third point, much more difficult to measure and very controversial in
its implications, can be labelled as the appearance of a European type of poli-
tician. Recent studies have stressed the increase of ‘European vocations’
among MEPs: for instance, the increasing number of MEPs coming from
supranational organisations, their progressive involvement in the activities
of the European party federations, and finally the emerging career connection
linking some European Union offices (first of all the appointment to Commis-
sioner) to the MEP position.
16
More recently, Pasquinucci and Verzichelli
17
have re-proposed, although
with a note of dubiety, the idea that a relative (but critical) mass of European poli-
ticians is already at work within the EP, under different forms and with different
degrees of success. The four pieces of evidence supporting this thesis are: (1) the
diminishing of ‘systematic’ turnover practices pursued by national parties; (2) the
decrease of the mean age of newcomers, which would mean a substantial dimin-
ution of ‘pensioner’ MEPs, that is, national politicians who are elected to the EP
to conclude their careers; (3) the increase of local and regional backgrounds in
comparison to the ‘usual’ political background within national party organis-
ations; (4) the relative (but significant) increase of political backgrounds
within European institutions and party federations.
On the other hand, these elements of potential change should be balanced,
according to many observers, by the persistence of ‘nationally oriented’
systems of rewards within the EP arena. In other words, a process of conver-
gence in the recruitment and circulation of MEPs has taken place, but it does
not cancel out the original differences between countries. At this stage we are
not able to add much to these sketchy images: data about the 2004 elections
have still to be completed and elaborated. Nevertheless, we can organise the
information already available in a way that may answer the first basic question
that lies behind the problems already defined: are we really facing another
moment of significant change in the making of a European political elite?
Or, to put it another way, do the 2004 elections represent a crucial step in
this uncertain evolution?
In order to distinguish the changes that are taking place and their magni-
tude, let us have a look at the data about party fragmentation in the current EP
(Table 1). The 2004 EU enlargement did not come with a dramatic increase of
EP seats. Thus, a remarkable increase of the representational threshold is the
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 261
first change that has occurred with the recent election, now standing at around
one MEP to 630,000 EU voters.
The entry into parliament of a number of political formations with clear
country-specific origins (see below) did not increase the absolute number of
parliamentary groups. The two ratios based on this figure (groups/MEPs
and groups/countries) are the lowest of the whole period 1979 2004.
Table 1 also shows the up-to-date figures for two measures already included
in Raunio’s study of EP fragmentation:
18
namely, the cumulative percentage
reached by the two largest parliamentary groups (Socialists plus Popular
Party/European Democrats) and the Rae index of fragmentation. As the
table shows, the first index is slightly lower than in 1999, while the second
is slightly higher. According to the usual interpretation, this should mean
that both the indexes are indicating a weak reprise of the fragmentation
within the EP political scenario. Nevertheless, the data concerning a parlia-
mentary party system formed by 25 country delegations do not bring the EP
back to the degree of fragmentation observed before 1999.
The second table comparing the 2004 situation with the previous legisla-
tures (Table 2) confirms a remarkable continuity with the recent past. We have
used here a rough index of trans-nationality of EP groups in order to get a
picture of the borders of each EP group and understand their capability to
capture the political forces from all the country members.
The fragmentation measured in terms of trans-nationality has not
increased with the 2004 elections. On the contrary, several factors have
contributed to the increase of the trans-national representation within the
European Parliamentary Party Groups (EPPGs): among them, the entrance
TABLE 1
MEASURES OF FRAGMENTATION WITHIN THE EP, 1979– 2004
1979 1981 1984 1987 1989 1994 1996 1999 2004
Countries (
a
) 9 10 10 12 12 12 15 15 25
Number of
MEPs (
b
)
410 434 434 518 518 567 626 626 732
Parliamentary
groups (
g
)
7 8 9 9 11 10 10 8 7
g
/
a
0.78 0.80 0.90 0.75 0.92 0.83 0.67 0.53 0.28
g
/
b
0.017 0.018 0.021 0.017 0.021 0.018 0.016 0.013 0.010
S% (PS/
PES þEPP/
CD-EPP)
53.7 55.3 55.3 54.1 58.1 62.6 63.2 65.9 64.2
Rae Index .806 .801 .812 .810 .738 .783 .775 .758 .765
Notes: the formula for computing the Rae index is 1– Sp
i
2
, where p is the party group’s share of
seats.
See the key under Table 2 for a complete list of party groups’ acronyms/names.
262 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
in a new trans-national formation (the European Unity of the Left) of several
post-communist parties from the new accession countries, the transformation
of the ELDR group in a wider alliance and the birth of a unified trans-national
green party (with the Congress of Rome, March 2004). Overall, the average
values of the trans-nationality index are, in 2004, the highest in the history
of the directly elected EP.
TABLE 2
INDEX OF TRANS-NATIONALITY OF EP GROUPS, 1979– 2004
1979 1982 1984 1989 1995 1999 2004
COM/GUE-NGL .43 .47 .47 .57 .55 .75 .76
EUL .30
PS/PES 1 1 .97 1 1 1 .98
RB/ARE .52 .85 .59
V/V-EFA .73 .50 .89 .71
LIB/ELDR/ALDE .80 .76 .57 .84 .80 .59 .85
EPP/CD-EPP .76 .81 .81 .88 1 1 1
EPD/EDA/UPE/UEN .47 .44 .41 .35 .38 .37 .36
EDG .24 .22 .22 .19
EDD .35
ER .43 .36
ID-DEM .56
Average 0,62 0,62 0,55 0,60 0,69 0,70 0,78
Notes:
(i) The index goes to its maximum value (1) when all the state members are represented in a
EPPG. The dimensions of the overall national delegations are weighted, whilst the size of
each single national delegation in each single group is not considered here.
(ii) Since we are not interested here in explaining the very nature of the EP party system, we
present a rather sketchy continuity guide of the EPPGs in a left– right dimension. For a
more comprehensive description of the historical evolution of EP political groups see
R. Corbett, F. Jacobs and M. Shackleton, The European Parliament (London: Harper Publish-
ing, 2003), pp.59 ff.
Key to Parties:
COM/GUE-NGL Communist Group/Confederal Group of European United Left-
Nordic Green Left
EUL European United Left
PS/PES Socialist Group/Party of European Socialists
RB/ARE Rainbow Group/European Radical Alliance
V/V-EFA The Greens/European Free Alliance
LIB/ELDR/ALDE Liberals/Liberal Democrat and Reform Party/Alliance of Liberal
and Democrats for Europe
EPP/CD-EPP European People’s Party/
EPD/EDA/UPE/UEN European Progressive Democrats/European Democratic Alliance/
Union for Europe/Europe of Nations
EDG European Democratic Group
EDD Europe of Democracies and Diversities
ER European Right
ID-DEM Independence and Democratic Group
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 263
Focusing on the indicators of MEP circulation, if we exclude 162 (22.4 per
cent) MEPs elected in the new accession countries, we discover that the 2004
elections have marked the highest point of persistence of the EU representa-
tive elite (Table 3). The rate of 54 per cent of incumbents re-elected (plus
another 3 per cent of MEPs coming back to Strasbourg after an interval)
increases the average of the previous two decades significantly.
This does not mean, of course, that a parliamentary turnover is following a
pattern of harmonic convergence. On the contrary, we can confirm the differ-
ent patterns which have been previously noted,
19
with some national
delegations (Germany, Austria and the UK above all) characterised by high
rates of continuity and some others (particularly the Mediterranean countries)
where the turnover is more pronounced. The same cross-country variation
seems to persist if one looks to another indicator of the relative distinctiveness
of MEPs (and to the same extent a proxy of the number of pensioned
politicians): the presence of governmental experiences. On the basis of a rapid
screening, we can say that this feature is declining, but such a decline is far
from being balanced from one country to another.
20
Finally, two indicators
strictly related to the dominant patterns of parliamentary recruitment, the mean
age and the mean age of newcomers, seem to be highly dissimilar among the
old (and even the new) country delegations within the EP (Table 4).
TABLE 3
NEWCOMERS AND RE-ELECTED MEPs, 2004 (EU15)
Re-elected
Incumbent
Re-elected
after Interval Newcomer N
UK 79.5 20.5 78
Austria 72.2 27.8 18
Germany 68.71.0 30.3 99
Belgium 62.5 8.3 29.2 24
Luxembourg 50.0 16.7 33.3 6
Netherlands 55.6 3.7 40.7 27
France 51.3 9.0 39.7 78
Finland 50.0 50.0 14
Spain 50.0 50.0 54
Italy 42.3 2.6 55.1 78
Denmark 42.9 57.1 14
Portugal 37.5 4.2 58.3 24
Sweden 26.3 73.7 19
Ireland 30.8 69.2 13
Greece 16.7 83.3 24
Average EU-15 54.2 2.6 43.2 570
Note:including D. Cohen-Bendit, re-elected in Germany after running for the
French Greens in 1999.
including A. Vatanen, re-elected in France after running for the Finnish
Kansallinen Kokoomus in 1999.
264 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
THE NEW REPRESENTATIVES FROM CENTRAL-EASTERN EUROPE (CEE)
The 2004 enlargement, considered a historic milestone in the development of
the community and cheerfully welcomed as the reunification of the continent
after the fall of the iron curtain, represents an enormous challenge to the Euro-
pean Union. This holds true not only for the institutional structure and the
decision-making capacity of the community in general, but also for its sole
directly elected body: the EP. In pure numbers, the 162 MEPs from the ten
accession countries (ACC-10) amount to more than one-fourth of the previous
size of the Parliament. More importantly, for the first time in its history the EP
has to integrate politicians from post-communist countries.
21
Unlike their
West European counterparts they come from young democracies, from
societies on which both communism and the post-communist transformation
TABLE 4
MEAN AGE OF MEPs, 2004
Country of Election Mean Age N
Mean Age of
Newcomers
Austria 50.3 18 44.8 (5)
Belgium 51.3 24 55.9 (7)
Denmark 52.6 14 47.0 (8)
Finland 50.1 14 48.4 (7)
France 53.7 78 50.8 (32)
Germany 50.4 99 44.5 (30)
Greece 51.1 24 50.6 (20)
Ireland 50.6 13 49.1 (9)
Italy 54.0 78 51.8 (42)
Luxembourg 61.3 6 57.5 (2)
Netherlands 47.3 27 40.64 (11)
Portugal 49.8 24 40.6 (11)
Spain 51.4 54 48.2 (27)
Sweden 48.1 19 46.3 (13)
UK 52.9 78 54.8 (16)
Average EU-15 51.8 570 49.2 (244)
Czech Republic 49.5 24
Cyprus 59.3 6
Estonia 57.5 6
Hungary 46.4 24
Latvia 49.7 9
Lithuania 51.2 13
Malta 41.8 5
Poland 50.1 54
Slovakia 50.6 14
Slovenia 49.7 7
Average ACC-10 49.9 162
Total 51.3 732
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 265
have left an imprint. Unlike many EU-15 MEPs they could not directly experi-
ence the evolving European political and economic order from early on.
Against such a background the entry of the new parliamentarians from the
ACC-10 countries deserves particular attention. Do they share the social
characteristics of their Western counterparts, and how politically experienced
are they? Are there any hints of a particularly ‘European’ profile of members
from Central and Eastern Europe, somewhat similar to the features reported
above for the MEPs from ‘old’ Europe? In other words, do the MEPs from
ACC-10 distinguish themselves from the national MPs in their home
countries?
Considering the few data available, both the comparison of old and new
member countries and the comparison between national MPs and MEPs
among the latter meet severe restrictions. Still, some first insights into the
emergence of a supranational political elite can be presented. The data set
used for the empirical analyses is based on some 50 variables for the ACC-
10 MEPs
22
and contains individual data concerning the same basic infor-
mation (age, education, occupation, political background) already available
for the MEPs elected in the past five legislatures.
The 2004 European elections took place at a time when the initial
EUphoria in the ACC-10 countries was already over and had given way to
a more critical perception of EU membership and its impacts. While
general support for joining the European Union was still evident and could
be mobilised in the accession referendums, disillusionment was also
obvious. It was reflected in the poor electoral turnout in the new member
states where it was even ten percentage points below the historic negative
peak in the old member states (38 per cent as compared to 47 per cent).
More importantly, the election campaigns in almost all ACC-10 countries
were organised along domestic conflicts and cleavages rather than addressing
European issues. As a result of both the focus on domestic affairs and the low
turnout, the European elections turned into a ‘government bashing event’.
Beyond this, in some accession countries, particularly Poland, Eurosceptic
parties and lists found support. Whilst none of these features is specific to
the new member states,
23
they provide an environment that, prima facie, is
rather problematic for supranational orientations.
One should not portray the ACC-10 MEPs without mentioning that the
‘new’ MEPs are not actually new. In legal terms, from 1 May 2004 the parlia-
mentarians from Central and Eastern Europe (plus Cyprus and Malta), del-
egated by their national parliaments, were full-scale MEPs with all the
rights and duties that go with such status. Most of them had served as EP
observers during the year preceding the accession. Still, only a minority of
those delegates were reinstated after the first EP election. From the current
ACC-10 MEPs less than one-third (48 out of 162) were delegates and/or
266 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
observers before the 2004 elections. This high ‘turnover’ is clearly related to
the anti-government voting in most of the accession countries. Beneficiaries
of that voting pattern were the existing opposition parties whereas electoral
successes of new parties remained the exception.
24
Another effect of government bashing is the composition of the EPPGs.
Since all the three ‘big’ accession countries Poland, Czech Republic and
Hungary (from where almost two-thirds of the ACC-10 MEPs originate)
were governed by Socialists/Social Democrats in June 2004, the opposition
Conservative and Christian Democrat camp had an impressive electoral
victory. As a consequence the new member states are clearly over-represented
in the EPP-CD whilst being under-represented in the PES. Disproportion
between ACC-10 and EU-15 MEPs is even more evident in two of the
smaller EPPGs. Thus, there are as many Central and East European MEPs
in the GUE-NGL as parliamentarians from the longstanding member
countries. In contrast, the V-EFA are composed almost exclusively of EU-
15 MEPs. In both cases the structure of the EPPG composition reflects the
party system in the post-communist countries: The nationalists and extreme
right are relatively strong at least in some CEE countries whereas the
Greens are a marginal force in the regional party systems at best.
25
With regard to the forming of a supra-national elite another observation
on the EP factions is more striking. In spite of obvious particularities of the
party systems in Central and Eastern Europe, such as the strong standing of
so-called successor parties on the national level, the ACC-10 MEPs seem to
integrate smoothly with the existing EPPGs. As mentioned above, the
fragmentation of the sixth directly elected EP is not higher than before,
although 162 ‘new’ MEPs from 47 different national parties entered the par-
liament (Table 1). Neither is there any EPPG solely composed of ACC-10
MEPs, nor do the politicians from the new member countries dominate any
EP faction. Whilst the Central and East Europeans are over-represented
among non-affiliated parliamentarians, the surprising phenomenon is that
only ten of them (or seven per cent) did not join the ranks of any of the
seven EPPGs.
26
This remarkable degree of inclusion proves the success of
an integration process dating back to the early 1990s. From those early days
onwards, political parties from Western Europe set up networks with their
counterparts and allies in post-communist countries.
What is the social composition of the ‘new’ MEPs? How do they compare
to the EU-15 MEPs, and what conclusions can be drawn with regard to the for-
mation of a European elite? Some basic insights can be gained from looking at
the occupational background, the mean age and the education of MPs. Among
these social background variables the occupation points to the social status
prior to entering the EP
27
and attests to the relevance of practical experience
gained in other fields than politics. The results prove how ‘advantageous’ the
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 267
occupational affinity to politics is for careers leading into the EP. Thus,
roughly 40 per cent of the ACC-10 parliamentarians used to work in poli-
tics-related fields before entering parliament, be it as party employees, civil
servants or journalists. The single most important recruitment pool is the
higher civil servants. Apparently, experience with bureaucratic procedures
in the higher ranks of state administration and familiarity with the preparation
and implementation of political programmes provide important qualifications
for candidates running for the EP in Central and Eastern Europe.
28
Linkages to
education and to the economic sector are also well-established, with 21 per
cent of the CEE MEPs previously working as teachers or professors and
another 15 per cent as businessmen or managers. In comparison with the
EU-15 countries lawyers and judges are hardly to be found among the
parliamentarians from the ACC-10 countries.
By their formal education the ACC-10 MEPs certainly qualify as what are
usually considered elites: Almost all of them have a university degree,
approximately one in ten even graduated from two different faculties. The
high proportion of MEPs with a PhD title (48 per cent) points to an academi-
cally well-trained representative elite from the accession countries.
29
By and
large, the CEE MEPs seem to be ahead of their West European colleagues in
terms of what Bourdieu refers to as institutional cultural capital.
30
The strong
emphasis on natural sciences during the communist period is still reflected in
the degrees of MEPs but it is less pronounced than in many national parlia-
ments of post-communist Europe.
As illustrated by Table 4, the mean age of the MEPs from new member
countries is two years younger than the EU-15 parliamentarians. Since all of
them are newcomers (as democratically elected MEPs), it appears better to
compare them to the newcomers from the older EU member states. The
age difference between both groups is minimal. This can be understood as an
indication that the species of the ‘European pensioner’ does not figure too
prominently among the ACC-10 MEPs whereas it used to be a common
phenomenon in the early days of the directly elected parliament.
31
In other respects the MEPs from Central and Eastern Europe very much
resemble the first EC-9 parliamentarians after the introduction of direct elections.
At that time dual mandates were common practice among MEPs. Due to the pre-
1979 history of the European Parliament it comes as no surprise that almost every
second elected representative had experience as a national MP. Beyond that, one
in six MEPs served as a minister before his or her election to the EP. The political
‘capital’ of the current ACC-10 MEPs is even more impressive. At least 90
former members of national chambers are among them (Table 5). Nineteen
per cent used to serve as cabinet ministers, among them four former prime min-
isters.
32
If junior ministers are included, more than one fourth of the MEPs from
new member countries have governmental experience.
268 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
Whereas education, mean age and political experience of MEPs are rel-
evant for political careers and parliamentary recruitment, with the first and
last also pointing to political professionalisation, the question of gender
bears a completely different meaning. The presence of women in parliaments
refers to the linkage between representative elites and the society at large. It is
discussed in the context of representation no matter whether one follows an
approach of descriptive (and, possibly, symbolic) representation or the idea of
interest representation. How representative and inclusive is the European Par-
liament? From a theoretical point of view the stronger representation of
women in the European Parliament could indicate its rather weak position
in terms of decision-making capacity. Such argument follows a certain line
in gender research suggesting that career chances of women improve the
less powerful an institution is.
From the elite perspective a more fruitful approach is the comparison of
ACC-10 and EU-15 MEPs (Table 6). Strong differences in female represen-
tation would mean that despite obvious trends of ‘Europeanisation’, patterns
of recruitment with regard to gender are still different in old and new EU
member states. Differences certainly exist if one considers the institutional
settings. Thus, gender quotas that have been introduced in many ‘old’ EU
member states during the past two decades are rare exceptions in the accession
countries. Legal regulations as in France are missing all over Central and
Eastern Europe.
33
At first glance, the comparison between ACC-10 and EU-15 representa-
tives in the current term seems to confirm the forecasts. Whereas female rep-
resentation increased once again among MEPs from the old member states (to
almost one-third) it is ten percentage points lower for the accession countries.
Even if one disregards Malta and Cyprus, exclusively represented by males,
TABLE 5
MEPs WITH PRIOR EXPERIENCE IN NATIONAL PARLIAMENT
AND GOVERNMENT (%)
Experience as
National MPs
Experience as
Cabinet Member
EP 1979 45 16.7
EP 1984 35 13
EP 1989 26 14.1
EP 1994 30 10.5
EP 1999 28 10.2
ACC-10 in EP 2004 57 19.1
Sources: R. Corbett, F. Jacobs and M. Shackleton. The European Parlia-
ment (London: John Harper Publishing, 2003), p.52 (for EP
1979– 99); EurElite data set CubeMEPs (for ACC-10).
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 269
the gap between new and old member states remains large. Still, only three
post-communist countries (Czech Republic, Poland and Latvia) are below
the EU-15 average. The hypothesis of systematically diverging mechanisms
of recruitment is strongly challenged once the MEPs are compared with
national MPs. Just as in Western Europe, the percentage of female MEPs in
ACC-10 is 7 8 points above the national average. Apparently, the quest for
female representation – though not very well perceived in the national parlia-
ments of Central and Eastern Europe seems to have had an impact on MEP
recruitment in these countries.
Far beyond female representation, a systematic comparison between
national MPs and MEPs is useful to determine if and to what extent the Euro-
pean representative elite is different from the national. Such a comparison
would also help us understand whether MEPs from different countries are
more similar to each other than their national counterparts in the same
TABLE 6
FEMALE REPRESENTATION: MEPS AND NATIONAL MPS IN COMPARISON (%)
Female
MEPs
Last National
Election
Last National Election
Before at EP
2004 Election
Diff.
MEP– MNP
Austria 38.9 Nov 02 33.9 5.0
Belgium 29.2 May 03 35.3 26.2
Denmark 35.7 Nov 01 38.0 22.3
Finland 35.7 Mar 03 37.5 21.8
France 43.6 Jun 02 12.2 31.4
Germany 31.3 Sep 02 32.2 20.9
Greece 29.2 Mar 04 14.0 15.2
Ireland 38.5 May 02 13.3 25.2
Italy 19.2 May 01 11.5 7.7
Luxembourg 50.0 Jun 04 20.0 30.0
Netherlands 44.4 Jan 03 36.7 7.8
Portugal 25.0 Mar 02 19.1 5.9
Spain 33.3 Mar 04 36.0 22.7
Sweden 57.9 Sep 02 45.3 12.6
UK 24.4 Jun 01 17.9 6.5
Average EU-15 32.5 24.5 7.9
Cyprus 0.0 May 01 10.7 210.7
Czech Republic 20.8 Jun 02 17.0 3.8
Estonia 33.3 Mar 03 18.8 14.5
Hungary 33.3 Apr 02 9.8 23.5
Latvia 22.2 Oct 02 21.0 1.2
Lithuania 38.5 Oct 00 10.6 27.8
Malta 0.0 Apr 03 9.2 29.2
Poland 13.0 Sep 01 20.2 27.3
Slovakia 35.7 Sep 02 19.3 16.4
Slovenia 42.9 Oct 00 12.2 30.6
Average ACC-10 22.8 15.6 7.3
270 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
countries. In order to have a critical mass of MEPs, we confine our brief refer-
ence to the three biggest Acc-10 Countries. With regard to the social back-
ground, it is stunning how similar the profiles of MEPs and national
parliamentarians (MNPs) are in Hungary. For the Czech Republic and
Poland the most notable differences lie with education. MEPs of both
countries are more highly qualified than the respective MNPs but fewer
members of the European Parliament graduated from the technical, engineer-
ing and natural science faculties. Generally, MEPs from all three countries are
somewhat older than MNPs, and the difference increases if they are compared
only to the newcomers among the national MPs.
FROM CONVERGENCE TO COHERENCE? THE FUTURE RESEARCH
AGENDA ON EU REPRESENTATIVES
Whilst some arguments have been brought forward to suggest that the 2004 EP
elections hold particular significance, it is still too early to determine whether
they represent a critical juncture in the development of the European Parlia-
ment and its primary actors, the MEPs. For such qualification of the recent
casting of ballots across the European Union more sound data and more
thorough analysis are needed. Yet however provisional the existing data,
both the diachronic analysis of the evolution of the MEPs over the past
25 years and the results from an eyeball inspection of the new ACC-10 parlia-
mentarians lead to three conclusions. First and foremost, the European Parlia-
ment has emerged over the years as an important arena for politicians from the
member states. Secondly, parallel to processes of institutional stabilisation and
consolidation, a clear trend of convergence is noticeable among MEPs not-
withstanding persisting differences between national delegations. Thirdly,
first evidence from the accession countries points to distinctive features of
MEPs as compared to their colleagues in the national parliaments. All these
findings together support the idea expressed in the first hypothesis that
a European pattern of political career is currently in the making.
Still, little is known about the direction of the convergence, the driving
forces behind it and the variance between national delegations and EPPGs.
What our data tell us, at the moment, is simply that the convergence of recruit-
ment patterns within the EP offers nowadays room for the three types of
MEPs which would constitute the critical mass of the European political
class: stepping-stone politicians ‘oriented to a supranational career’,
euro-expert politicians and ‘absolute’ euro-politicians. There is no doubt
that, from a theoretical point of view, the political background and the
careers of MEPs deserve much more attention than they have received in
the past, being the eventual passage from an uncertain convergence of
social and political characters to a coherent consolidation of the above three
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 271
types of representatives a significant innovation in the structure of a Euro-
pean political elite. The future research agenda should therefore include at
least the following key points:
(a) a more thorough investigation into the long-term developments of MEPs’
socio-political characteristics, both across countries and EPPGs (diachro-
nic perspective);
(b) a full-scale comparison of 2004 MEPs from old and new EU member
states with regard to patterns of recruitment (synchronic perspective);
(c) a confrontation of the initial democratically elected MEPs from the EU-9
(1979) and the ACC-10 (2004) (combined diachronic/synchronic
perspective);
(d) systematic research on the homogeneity of MEPs as compared to MNPs
(‘vertical’ perspective);
(e) a reconstruction of the sequence of MEPs’ political careers including
regional, national and European mandates and offices (inter-level
mobility perspective);
(f) an in-depth analysis of specific features of the different EPPGs, or other
breakdowns inside the EP representative elite (for example, Eurosceptics vs.
Europeanist MEPs);
Some first answers to these research questions are feasible. They would
help to arrive at a better understanding of the composition of MEPs, their
recruitment and patterns of convergence. Analysing not only the full comp-
lement of MEPs but also various sub-groups could, possibly, reveal a
counter-tendency to the dominant trend of homogenisation: the formation of
a brand of representatives acting against the further integration of Europe
from within its publicly elected institution: the European Parliament. Still,
such formations and their activities, in the long run, might not threaten the
emergence of a unified European political elite, crystallising around a core
of experienced representatives in Strasbourg/Brussels. Whether further
steps of European parliamentary integration will be taken, and whether they
will lead to a coherent representative elite, still remains an open question.
NOTES
1. See for example R.S. Katz and B. Wessels (eds.), The European Parliament, National Parlia-
ments and European Integration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); and H. Schmitt and
J. Thomassen (eds.), Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). On voting behaviours within the EP see S. Hix,
A. Noury and G. Roland, ‘Power to the Parties: Cohesion and Competition in the European
Parliament, 1979– 2001’, British Journal of Political Science, 2 (2005), pp.209– 34.
2. S. Hix, T. Raunio and R. Scully, ‘Fifty Years On: Research on the European Parliament’,
Journal of Common Market Studies,41/2 (2002), pp.191202.
272 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
3. R. Corbett, ‘A Very Special Parliament: The EP in the Twenty-First Century’, Journal of
Legislative Studies,8/2 (2003), pp.1– 8.
4. See particularly R. Corbett, The European Parliament’s Role in Closer EU Integration
(London: Macmillan, 1998).
5. See for instance the conclusions on the evolution of legislative and representative functions
within the EU in B. Steunenberg and J. Thomassen (eds.), The European Parliament:
Moving toward Democracy in the EU (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).
6. R. Scully ‘Between Nation, Party and Identity: A Study of European Parliamentarians’, EPRG
Working Paper, No.5, 2001.
7. On the EP parliamentary groups see T. Raunio, The European Perspective: Trans-national
Party Groups in the 1989 1994 European Parliament (London: Ashgate, 1997). On EU
party federations, S. Hix. and C. Lord, Political Parties in the European Union (London:
Macmillan, 1997); and L. Bardi, ‘Parties and Party Systems in the European Union’, in
K.R. Luther and F. Mueller Rommel (eds.), Political Parties in the new Europe (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2002), pp.293322.
8. M. Cotta, ‘Direct Election of the European Parliament: A Supranational Political Elite in the
Making?’, in K. Reif (ed.), European Elections 1979 and 1984:Conclusions and Perspectives
from Empirical Research (Berlin: Quorum, 1984), pp.1227; M. Westlake, Britain’s
Emerging Euro-elite? The British in the Directly-elected European Parliament, 1979 1992
(Dartmouth: Aldershot, 1993).
9. Norris argues, in fact, that ‘if EP was ever once an amateur body, as early studies suggest,
[this] evidence suggests that that it is no longer so’ (p.100), P. Norris, ‘Recruitment into
the European Parliament’, in Katz and Wessels (eds.), The European Parliament, National
Parliaments and European Integration, pp.86– 102.
10. Given the particular nature of the EU political system, here we should consider the relation-
ship between ‘elected legislators’ and ‘un-elected legislators’. On this point, see R. Scully and
R. Van Schendelen, ‘Conclusions’, Journal of Legislative Studies,8/4 (2002), Special issue
on The Unseen Hand: Unelected EU Legislators, pp.11724.
11. M. Cotta and H. Best, ‘Parliamentary Representation from Early Democratization to the Age
of Consolidated Democracy: National Variations and International Convergence in a Long
Term Perspective’, in M. Cotta and H. Best (eds.), The European Representative, Vol.II
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
12. Thus, out of 288 German MEPS since 1979 only 12 continued their parliamentary either in the
Bundestag or in one of the 16 state legislatures. In the Danish case, there were only two
examples of MEPS in the 1979 1999 periods for whom a national political career followed
membership in the EP; see U. Kjaer, ‘Pathways to the European Parliament-National Office as
a stepping stone?’. Paper presented at the ECPR Grenoble Workshop, 2001, p.6. Even if we do
not take current MEPS into account who might still ‘jump’ into national politics, the figures
are marginal. M. Westlake, Britain’s Emerging Euro-elite? See also D. Pasquinucci and
L. Verzichelli, Elezioni Europee e classe politica sovrananzionale (Bologna: Il Mulino,
2004).
13. Corbett, The European Parliament’s Role in Closer EU Integration.
14. Corbett, The European Parliament’s Role in Closer EU Integration. See also T. Bryder, ‘Party
Groups in the European Parliament and the Changing Recruitment Patterns of MEPs’, in D.S.
Bell and C. Lord (eds.), Transnational Parties in the European Union (Aldershot: Ashgate,
2002), pp.189– 203.
15. N.W. Polsby, ‘The Institutionalization of the U.S. House of Representatives’, American
Political Science Review, 62 (1968) pp.144– 68.
16. Corbett, The European Parliament’s Role in Closer EU Integration, pp.52– 6.
17. Pasquinucci and Verzichelli, Elezioni Europee e classe politica sovrananzionale,
pp.169– 77.
18. Raunio The European Perspective: Transnational Party Groups in the 1989– 1994 European
Parliament.
19. S. Scarrow, ‘Political Career Paths and the European Parliament’, Legislative Studies
Quarterly, No.2 (1997), pp.253– 63.
THE 2004 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 273
20. Among the new MEPs from EU-15 countries elected in 2004 we find a small number of
former ministers at the national level: Jean-Luc Dehaene (former Prime Minister) in
Belgium, Heinrik Dam Kristensen and Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (former PM) from
Denmark, Satu Hassi, Ville Ita
¨la
¨, Anneli Ja
¨a
¨tteenma
¨ki from Finland, Alain Lamassoure and
Toubon Jacques in France, and a remarkable number of Italian top-ranking politicians: Pier
Luigi Bersani, Paolo Cirino Pomicino, Massimo D’Alema (former PM), Gianni De Michelis,
Enrico Letta, Patrizia Toia. Even the two newly elected Luxemburg MEPs are former
ministers: Erna Hennicot-Schoepges and Lydie Polfer.
21. Far more than 90 per cent of the ACC-10 MEPs (151 out of 162) originate from the trans-
formation countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The integration of the East German
parliamentarians after German unification represents a special case and can be neglected here.
22. Data gathering for the ACC-10 countries could almost be completed with some missing
information for the 18 MEPs from the Mediterranean islands and from Slovenia.
23. There are also hardly any differences between ACC-10 and EU-15 countries with regard to
placing high-ranking politicians at the top of party lists even though these ‘top candidates’
have never considered taking their EP seats. Such voter-catching strategy was practised by
many Belgian parties and by Forza Italia as well as by the Hungarian MSZP and MDF.
24. Among the few exceptions is the Polish Freedom Union, which had been represented in the
1997 Sejm. In EU-15 countries, likewise, few new parties achieved representation in the Euro-
pean Parliament, among them the Independence Party (UK) and the Liste Martin (Austria).
25. J. Bugajski, Political Parties of Eastern Europe: A Guide to Politics in Post-Communist Era
(New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2002).
26. Out of these ten the three Slovak MEPs from former Prime Minister Meciar’s HZDS tried to
join the PPE-DE but they were not accepted.
27. In the case of MEPs serving in the national parliament before entering the EP their previous
occupation was coded.
28. It can be presumed that some of these former civil servants were actively involved in the pre-
accession activities and negotiations. Such involvement provided them with EU-specific
knowledge and with relevant social networks.
29. This finding needs some qualification because PhD titles seem to have been much easier to
achieve in communist and post-communist countries than in the West.
30. P. Bordieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977)
and more recently P. Bordieu, The Logic of Practice (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press,
1990).
31. Among the most prominent examples are Willy Brandt, Emilio Colombo, Benigno Zaccag-
nini, Guido Gonella, Leo Tindemans and Jean Lecanuet.
32. Andres Tarand from Estonia, Guntars Krasts from Latvia, the Polish Jerzy Busek and the
Slovene Alojz Peterle who has also served as a representative for the ACC-10 in the presi-
dency of the EU Convention.
33. In the wake of the 2004 elections the representation of women in the EP also became a
political matter. Both deputies and members of the EP administration were afraid that due
to EU enlargement its positive gender performance on average women have been rep-
resented in Strasbourg/Brussels in larger numbers than in most national chambers – would
suffer.
274 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES
... In this regard, Scarrow (1997) was one of the first to outline the emergence of 'European Careerist' MEPs in the 1990s. Recent studies confirmed Scarrow's initial findings: the EP now appeals to an increasing number of European careerists devoted to the institution and seeking to empower it (Beauvallet-Haddad et al., 2016;Biro-Nagy, 2019;Daniel, 2015;Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005;Whitaker, 2014). While this first batch of studies made important contributions to unpack the various career paths of MEPs, it also relies on 'fragmented' empirical evidence. ...
... MEPs with a European orientation). The literature tends to point out towards the stabilization of such European "long-termers" (Biro-Nagy, 2016;Verzichelli and Edinger, 2005;Van Geffen, 2016;Salvati, 2016;Whitaker, 2014). Verzichelli and Edinger (2005) introduced a distinction between "Euro-politicians" (i.e., MEPs without prior political experience serving in the EP during multiple mandates) and "Euro-expert" (i.e., politicians with a significant domestic career but subsequently conducting a career in the EP) to highlight the importance of taking former domestic political experience into account, notably, upon parliamentary behaviour. ...
... The literature tends to point out towards the stabilization of such European "long-termers" (Biro-Nagy, 2016;Verzichelli and Edinger, 2005;Van Geffen, 2016;Salvati, 2016;Whitaker, 2014). Verzichelli and Edinger (2005) introduced a distinction between "Euro-politicians" (i.e., MEPs without prior political experience serving in the EP during multiple mandates) and "Euro-expert" (i.e., politicians with a significant domestic career but subsequently conducting a career in the EP) to highlight the importance of taking former domestic political experience into account, notably, upon parliamentary behaviour. Yet, in this study, we suggest to use the label of "Euro two-track" MEPs rather than "Euro expert" to avoid confusion over the term 'expert'. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The European Parliament (EP)'s formal authority has considerably expanded since 1979. As a result, several studies have-conceptually and empirically-posited the development of a European political class over time. Since Scarrow (1997)'s seminal distinction between 'EP careerists', 'domestic-oriented MEPs', and 'short-term politicians', there has been no comprehensive and longitunal analyses of MEPs' career patterns in the EP, though. This paper presents the first systematic empirical analysis of all 3,654 MEPs' career patterns from the 28 Member States over 40 years (1979-2019). Using Borchert's (2011) analytical framework, the paper analyses how the "attractiveness", "accessibility" and "availability" of offices in the EP has shaped MEPs' career patterns. The main conclusion is that the development of a European political class is a distinctive trend of the EP. Furthermore, despite the recent rise of Euroscepticism, the professionalization of MEPs has never been as large as in the latest legislative terms. Yet, EPGs do not contribute equally to the rise of this European political class. On the opposite, fragmentation of party systems in the late 2000s and early 2010s has questioned the (historical) contribution of some of the most influential EPGs. In this wake, the paper argues that these latest developments could undermine the EP's formal policy-making capacity in the near future, as illustrated by the 2019 European elections (largest turnover and biggest electoral success of Eurosceptic parties).
... In this regard, Scarrow (1997) was one of the first to outline the emergence of 'European Careerist' MEPs in the 1990s. Recent studies confirmed Scarrow's initial findings: the attractiveness of the EP now appeals to an increasing number of European careerists devoted to the institution and seeking to empower it (Beauvallet-Haddad et al., 2016;Biro-Nagy, 2019;Daniel, 2015;Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005;Edinger & Fiers, 2007;Whitaker, 2014). While this first batch of studies made important contributions to unpack the various career paths of MEPs and outlining the development of a European political class, it also relies on relatively 'fragmented' empirical evidence: studies are often country-oriented (e.g., Michon 2010, 2016 on French MEPs;Real-Dato, Jerez-Mir, 2007 -Real-Dato & Alarcón-González 2012 on Spanish MEPs; Kakepaki, Karayiannis, 2021 on Greek MEPs;or Bale and Taggart, 2006; Bíró-Nagy 2016, 2019 on central and/or eastern countries), and/or restricted to specific legislative terms (e.g., Bale & Taggart, 2006;Scarrow, 1997;van Geffen 2016;Salvati, 2016), and/or restricting the analysis of political career to MEPs' background instead of encompassing the broader complexity of pre-and post-position served by MEPs throughout their career (Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005;Salvati, 2016). ...
... Recent studies confirmed Scarrow's initial findings: the attractiveness of the EP now appeals to an increasing number of European careerists devoted to the institution and seeking to empower it (Beauvallet-Haddad et al., 2016;Biro-Nagy, 2019;Daniel, 2015;Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005;Edinger & Fiers, 2007;Whitaker, 2014). While this first batch of studies made important contributions to unpack the various career paths of MEPs and outlining the development of a European political class, it also relies on relatively 'fragmented' empirical evidence: studies are often country-oriented (e.g., Michon 2010, 2016 on French MEPs;Real-Dato, Jerez-Mir, 2007 -Real-Dato & Alarcón-González 2012 on Spanish MEPs; Kakepaki, Karayiannis, 2021 on Greek MEPs;or Bale and Taggart, 2006; Bíró-Nagy 2016, 2019 on central and/or eastern countries), and/or restricted to specific legislative terms (e.g., Bale & Taggart, 2006;Scarrow, 1997;van Geffen 2016;Salvati, 2016), and/or restricting the analysis of political career to MEPs' background instead of encompassing the broader complexity of pre-and post-position served by MEPs throughout their career (Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005;Salvati, 2016). In other words, since Scarrow's (1997) seminal contribution, there has been no systematic analysis of MEP's career patterns that permits to define the structural evolution of the European political class over the first eight first legislative terms (i.e. ...
... Also, Dodeigne et al. (2021) outlined potential differences between stepping-stone MEPs with national political goals and the ones with regional political goals 3 . Third, the category of "long-termers" has attracted most attention from scholars (Biro-Nagy, 2016;Verzichelli and Edinger, 2005;Edinger and Fiers, 2007;Van Geffen, 2016;Salvati, 2016;Whitaker, 2014). This pattern provides one of the strongest pieces of evidence of the development of a European political class (i.e. ...
Conference Paper
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The European Parliament (EP)'s formal authority has considerably expanded since 1979. As a result, several studies have-conceptually and empirically-posited the development of a European political class over time. Since Scarrow (1997)'s seminal distinction between 'EP careerists', 'domestic-oriented MEPs', and 'short-term politicians', there has been surprisingly no systematic analysis, though. Studies are often country-oriented and/or restricted to some legislative terms. This paper presents the first systematic empirical analysis of all 3,654 MEPs' career patterns from the 28 Member States over 40 years (1979-2019). Using Borchert's (2011) analytical framework as a heuristic device, the paper analyses how the "attractiveness", "accessibility" and "availability" of offices in the EP has shaped MEPs' career patterns. The main conclusion is that the Europeanization of the political class is a distinctive trend and that it took place at an early stage of the institutional development of the EP. Furthermore, despite the recent rise of Euroscepticism, the professionalization of MEPs' career has never been as large as in the latest legislative terms. Yet, EPGs do not contribute equally to the rise of this European political class. On the opposite, fragmentation of party systems in the late 2000s and early 2010s has questioned the (historical) contribution of some of the most influential EPGs. In this wake, the paper argues that these latest developments could undermine the EP's formal policy-making capacity in the near future, as illustrated by the recent 2019 European elections (largest turnover and biggest electoral success of Eurosceptic parties).
... In this regard, Scarrow (1997) was one of the first to outline the emergence of 'European Careerist' MEPs. More recent studies also arrived at a similar conclusion: the attractiveness of the EP now appeals to an increasing number of European careerists devoted to the institution and seeking to empower it (Beauvallet-Haddad et al., 2016;Biro-Nagy, 2019;Daniel, 2015;Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005;Edinger & Fiers, 2007;Whitaker, 2014). While this first batch of studies made important contributions to unpack the various career paths of MEPs and outlining the development of a supranational elites, they are also facing several shortcomings. ...
... While this first batch of studies made important contributions to unpack the various career paths of MEPs and outlining the development of a supranational elites, they are also facing several shortcomings. Research conducted on this subject relies on a relatively 'fragmented' empirical evidence: studies are often (a) country-oriented (e.g., Michon 2010, 2016 Bale and Taggart, 2006; Bíró-Nagy 2016, 2019 on central and eastern countries), and/or (b) restricted to specific legislative terms (e.g., Bale & Taggart, 2006;Scarrow, 1997;van Geffen 2016;Salvati, 2016), (c) and/or focusing on the previous political career of MEPs (Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005;Salvati, 2016), without looking systematically at what they did before and after their time in Brussels and Strasbourg. In other words, since Scarrow's (1997) seminal contribution, there has been no systematic analysis of MEP's career paths covering both pre-and post-EP positions, over the first eight first legislative terms (i.e. ...
... Third, the category of "long-termers" has attracted most attention from scholars (Biro-Nagy, 2016;Verzichelli and Edinger, 2005;Edinger and Fiers, 2007;Van Geffen, 2016; 2 An overview of the different labels used to describe MEP's career path is available in the annexes of this article. While the list is not exhaustive, it allows to have an idea of the variety of labels used currently in the literature. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The European Parliament (EP)'s formal authority has considerably expanded since 1979. As a result, several studies have-conceptually and empirically-posited the development of a European political class over time. Since Scarrow (1997)'s seminal distinction between 'EP careerists', 'domestic-oriented MEPs', and 'short-term politicians', there has been surprisingly no systematic analysis though. Studies are often country-oriented and/or restricted to some legislative terms. This paper presents a first major step towards a systematic empirical analysis of all MEPs' career patterns over 40 years (1979-2019). At this stage, the paper focuses on EU-15 Member states-3 016 MEPs, i.e. about 85 percent of all MEPs-but will ultimately cover all EU-28 Member states. Using Borchert's (2011) analytical framework as an heuristic device, the papers analyses how the "attractiveness", "accessibility" and "availability" has impacted the MEPs' career patterns. Our main conclusion is that he development and stabilization of a European political class is an unmistakable trend. And despite the recent rise of Euroscepticism, MEPs' career professionalization has never been as large as in the latest legislative terms. We also observed that female MEPs are more likely to conduct to conduct professionalized European careers. Yet, EPGs do not contribute equally to the rise of this European elite: party systems fragmentation in the late 2000s and early 2010s has particularly undermined the (historic) contribution of the Socialists. This undermining of the European political class could potentially undermine the EP formal policy-making capacity in the near future, a threat that is reinforced by the recent 2019 European elections (largest turnover and biggest electoral success of Eurosceptic parties).
... Building on Scarrow's work, scholars have extended her approach (Salvati, 2016;van Geffen, 2016;Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005). For instance, in the "Short-termers" category, van Geffen (2016) also makes a distinction between "EP retirees" (i.e., MEPs at the end of their political career) and what he labels as "one-off" MEPs. ...
... They can also be "MEPs who turn out to be poor-quality politicians and who are deemed unfit for a political career at either the European or domestic political level" (van Geffen, 2016: 1021). Verzichelli and Edinger (2005) had already introduced a similar distinction between two types of politicians entering the EP after their career in the national parliament: "EP pensioners" (i.e., golden parachute MEPs) and "Euro-insider" (i.e., MEPs that were already involved in EU affairs before joining the EP). The main distinction between these two types of MEPs lies whether their previous career was 'domestically' or 'Europeanly' oriented. ...
... For instance, Verzichelli and Edinger (2005) identified "Euro-expert" (i.e., politicians with a significant domestic career but now committed to supranational issues) and "Euro-politicians" (i.e., MEPs without any major political experience and directly recruited for a career at the European level). Van Geffen (2016) also makes a similar distinction based on the former national mandates served by MEPs. ...
Conference Paper
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The European Parliament (EP)’s formal authority has considerably expanded since 1979. As a result, scholars have increasingly paid attention to the emergence of a European political class, along with the formal empowerment of the EP. Since Scarrow’s seminal work on MEPs’ political ambition and career in the late 1990s, recent studies extended the empirical scope to new Member States and/or assess more systematically the evolution of MEPs career paths over legislative terms. Nonetheless, this literature suffers from a bias that is far from being limited to European studies, as it has been already identified in legislative and parliamentary studies: “methodological nationalism”. Indeed, earlier works have now established the relevance – or even predominance – of regional political arenas in multiple European countries. Including the analysis of the regional level is also pertinent while studying the EP, as the largest delegations precisely originate from regionalized and federal countries. To address this gap, this paper presents an empirical analysis of 2 209 MEPs career patterns over eight legislative terms (1979-2019) from seven regionalised and federal countries in the EU (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK), representing about half of all MEPs who ever served in the EP. The empirical analysis shows that ignoring regional positions conduct to the mischaracterisation of a substantial number of MEPs’ career patterns. This finding has important consequences when political experience is used as a key factor explaining MEPs’ legislative behaviour. It thus encourages other scholars to include the regional level more systematically, against “methodological nationalism”.
... On this matter, Scarrow (1997)'s seminal work on MEPs has been confirmed and extended recent studies (Beauvallet-Haddad et al., 2016;Biro-Nagy, 2019;Daniel, 2015;Salvati, 2012;Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005;Whitaker, 2014) outlined that the attractiveness of the EP is evolving and that it now appeals to an increasing number of European careerists devoted to the institution and seeking to empower it. Yet, other profiles of MEPs also exist: some MEPs are pure rookies without any legislative experience, others use the EP as a stepping stone towards national politics as they are mostly driven by 'domestic' political goals where for other MEPs, the EP is nothing more than a political dead-end (Scarrow, 1997). ...
... For instance, the enlargement of the EU from 15 up to 28 (and back to 27) Member States resulted in the inclusion of MEPs originating from different political systems, cultures and with various degree of political experience (see. on this matter, Bale & Taggart, 2006;Biro-Nagy, 2016, 2019Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005). A second notable evolution is the progressive expansion in the share of Eurosceptic MEPs: from 19.1 percent in 2004 to 30.5 percent during the 2014-2019 legislative term (Brack, 2018). ...
... Finally, "European Careerists" are defined as those with a "long and primary commitment" to the EP. Having a look at the categorization of career paths of MEPs published after Scarrow's work (Salvati, 2016;van Geffen, 2016;Verzichelli & Edinger, 2005), one can observe that studies mainly built on her categorization. ...
Conference Paper
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The European Parliament (EP)'s formal authority has considerably expanded since 1979. Yet, the EP evolves and achieves its formal policy-making capacity along with the types of Members of the EP (MEPs) attracted to serve into it. Indeed, the EP is not only populated by European 'careerists', but also 'rookies' without legislative experience or MEPs fuelled by 'domestic' political goals. Therefore, our research question is: what are the MEPs' career patterns in the EP? Career patterns are conceptualized as institutions in their own right, socializing and framing how MEPs consider their past, current and future positions in European multilevel settings. Since Scarrow's seminal distinction between 'EP careerists', 'domestic-oriented MEPs', and 'short-term politicians', there has been surprisingly no systematic analysis. Studies are often country-oriented or restricted to specific legislative terms. This paper presents an exploratory empirical analysis of 850 MEPs career patterns over seven legislative terms (1979-2014) from five countries (Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Sweden and the UK). Building upon the methodological challenges and first tentative results we encountered, this paper will serve as a springboard for a more systematic analysis of MEPs' political paths and its impact upon parliamentary behaviour in the broader "EvolvEP'-MEPs career and behaviour project".
... The European Parliament represents the will of the European people and plays a significant political role, especially after the 2004 enlargement, which was a 'critical juncture' for the EU institutions (Verzichelli and Edinger, 2005). These elements, together with the accumulated institutional experience of the European Parliament and its contribution to European integration, make the EP an attractive political destination, and this has a twofold effect. ...
... Most pieces of research on MEPs focus on their socio-demographic or political profiles, but some study the patterns of their recruitment and political careers, either before or after serving in the EP. Verzichelli and Edinger (2005) consider MEPs from a macroscopic perspective and detect different recruitment and career patterns. They identify trends and characteristics that mark out MEPs as a separate and relatively coherent political class, namely, as a supranational elite with features that go beyond the individual national framework. ...
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The European Parliament, National Parlia-ments and European Integration On voting behaviours within the EP see
  • See
  • R S For
  • B Katz
  • Wessels
See for example R.S. Katz and B. Wessels (eds.), The European Parliament, National Parlia-ments and European Integration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); and H. Schmitt and J. Thomassen (eds.), Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). On voting behaviours within the EP see S. Hix, A. Noury and G. Roland, 'Power to the Parties: Cohesion and Competition in the European Parliament, 1979–2001', British Journal of Political Science, 2 (2005), pp.209–34.
The European Parliament's Role in Closer EU Integration
  • Corbett
Corbett, The European Parliament's Role in Closer EU Integration, pp.52-6.
The European Perspective: Trans-national Party Groups in the Ashgate, 1997) On EU party federations, S. Hix. and C. Lord, Political Parties in the European Union (London: Macmillan, 1997); and L. Bardi, 'Parties and Party Systems in the European Union
  • T On
  • Raunio
On the EP parliamentary groups see T. Raunio, The European Perspective: Trans-national Party Groups in the 1989–1994 European Parliament (London: Ashgate, 1997). On EU party federations, S. Hix. and C. Lord, Political Parties in the European Union (London: Macmillan, 1997); and L. Bardi, 'Parties and Party Systems in the European Union', in K.R. Luther and F. Mueller Rommel (eds.), Political Parties in the new Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp.293–322.