Hefftler, Claudia (2018). Opposition Parties and EU Affairs in National Parliaments: Cooperation or Competition? PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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Abstract

EU integration has been argued to enhance a process of “de-parliamentarization” (Maurer and Wessels 2001) of political decision-making procedures and to contribute to a “waning of opposition” (Kirchheimer 1957). This thesis sets out to critically test these assumptions by empirical analysis of opposition parties’ parliamentary EU scrutiny activities. It addresses two desiderata in research on national parliaments and EU affairs: First, it investigates the practice of EU scrutiny and second, the political dynamics between government and opposition as drivers for these activities. The aim is to answer the following research question: Which factors explain opposition parties’ EU scrutiny activities in national parliaments? This study builds on the ontological background of rational choice institutionalism. The theoretical chapter conceptualizes two main strategies for opposition parties reflecting their reactive nature: cooperation and competition towards the governing parties. Cooperation is linked to the goal of short-term policy influence and could enhance legitimacy in terms of the inclusion of the interest of minorities. The strategy of competition in form of publicly challenging the government could, on the other hand, enhance the politicization of EU issues. The study develops a theoretical model of opposition to EU affairs in national parliaments, which is sensitive to the temporal aspect of cooperation and conflict. It concentrates on two essential steps of parliamentary scrutiny: the legislative scrutiny at committee level and the justifications towards the electorate at the plenary level. The study expects that the party type (anti-establishment or regular) and positional distance to the government explain variation in oppositions’ EU scrutiny activities. A small-n comparative research design deems most appropriate for the explorative nature of this study. Austria and Germany are chosen for analysis, as their institutional setting and political party systems comply with the logic of the most-similar system design. The study investigates the activities of the six party groups in opposition in the two lower chambers in the time period from 2009 to 2013. The analysis triangulates a quantitative assessment of the scope of EU scrutiny activities with qualitative methods in form of content analysis and interviews. The empirical investigation finds a surprisingly little effect of the party type of an anti-establishment party on EU scrutiny activities at committee level. At the same time, the anti-establishment parties compete strongly in plenary debates on those EU-related topics conducive to criticize the elite. The second hypothesis on the role of positional distance found clear support in content analysis on plenary debates in this study. The results show that the framing on EU affairs is clearly dependent on the topic under debate. For the cultural dimension, the correspondence of positional distance to EU framing activities was disrupted by the overemphasis of certain topics by the two anti-establishment parties. Overall, the study does not find an “opposition deficit” in parliaments in times of the Euro crisis. The results are linked back to the broader question of national parliaments’ role in EU democratic legitimacy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Hefftler, Claudiaclaudia.hefftler@uni-koeln.deUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-85950
Subjects: Political science
Uncontrolled Keywords:
KeywordsLanguage
EU StudiesEnglish
National ParliamentsEnglish
OppositionEnglish
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences > Department of Political Science and European Affairs
Language: English
Date: 2018
Date of oral exam: 30 May 2018
Referee:
NameAcademic Title
Wessels, WolfgangProf. Dr.
Neuhold, ChristineProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/8595

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