Academic studies of the political groups of the European Parliament
Academic studies of the political groups of the European Parliament refers to the studies of those groups by academics, the methods that they use and the conclusions that they reach.
The political groups of the European Parliament have been around in one form or another since September 1952 and the first meeting of the Parliament's predecessor, the Common Assembly. The groups are coalitions of MEPs and the Europarties and national parties that those MEPs belong to. The groups have coalesced into representations of the dominant schools of European political thought and are the primary actors in the Parliament.
Some of the groups (such as PES) have become homogeneous units coterminous with their Europarty, some (such as IND/DEM) have not. But they are still coalitions, not parties in their own right, and do not issue manifestos of their own. It may therefore be difficult to discern how the groups intend to vote without first inspecting the party platforms of their constituent parties, and then with limited certainty.
Additionally, national media focus on the MEPs/national parties of their own member state, neglecting the group's activities and poorly understanding their structure or even existence. Transnational media coverage of the groups per se is limited to those organs such as the Parliament itself, or those news media (e.g. EUObserver or theParliament.com) that specialise in the Parliament. These organs cover the groups in detail but with little overarching analysis. So although such organs make it easy to find out how a group acted on a specific vote, they provide little information on the voting patterns of a specific group.
As a result, the only bodies providing analysis of the voting patterns and Weltanschauung of the groups are academics.
Academics analysing the groups include Simon Hix (London School of Economics and Political Science), Amie Kreppel University of Florida, Abdul Noury (Free University of Brussels), Gérard Roland, (University of California, Berkeley), Gail McElroy (Trinity College, Dublin, Department of Political Science), Kenneth Benoit (Trinity College, Dublin - Institute for International Integration Studies (IIIS)), Friedrich Heinemann, Philipp Mohl, and Steffen Osterloh (University of Mannheim - Centre for European Economic Research).
Positions on economy and euroscepticism
Table 3 of the 3 January 2008 version of a working paper from the London School of Economics/Free University of Brussels by Hix and Noury considered the positions of the groups in the Sixth Parliament (2004-2009) by analysing their roll-call votes. The results for each group are shown in the diagram on the right. The vertical scale is anti-pro Europe spectrum, (0% = extremely anti-Europe, 100% = extremely pro), and the horizontal scale is economic left-right spectrum, (0% = extremely economically left-wing, 100% = extremely economically right-wing). The results are also shown in the table below.
|Group||Left-right spectrum||Eurosceptic spectrum||Sources|
|EUL/NGL||very left-wing||very Eurosceptic|||
|EPP-ED (EPP subgroup)||centre-right||Europhile|||
|EPP-ED (ED subgroup)||right-wing||Eurosceptic|||
|IND/DEM (reformist subgroup)||centre||very Eurosceptic|||
|IND/DEM (secessionist subgroup)||very right-wing||Secessionist|||
Two of the groups (EPP-ED and IND/DEM) were split. EPP-ED are split on Euroscepticism: the EPP subgroup ( ) were centre-right Europhiles, whereas the ED subgroup ( ) were right-wing Eurosceptics.
IND/DEM was also split along its subgroups: the reformist subgroup ( , bottom-center) voted as centrist Eurosceptics, and the secessionist subgroup ( , middle-right) voted as right-wing Euroneutrals. The reformist subgroup was able to pursue a reformist agenda via the Parliament. The secessionist subgroup was unable to pursue a secessionist agenda there (it's out of the Parliament's purview) and pursued a right-wing agenda instead. Ironically, this resulted in the secessionist subgroup being less eurosceptic in terms of roll-call votes than other, non-eurosceptic parties. UKIP (the major component of the secessionist subgroup) was criticised for this seeming abandonment of its Eurosceptic core principles. 
Table 3 of the 21 August 2008 version of the same working paper gave figures for the level of cooperation between each group (how many times they vote with a group, and how many times they vote against) for the Fifth and Sixth Parliaments. The results are given in the tables below, where 0% = never votes with, 100% = always votes with.
|Group||Number of times voted with (%)||Sources|
|Group||Number of times voted with (%)||Sources|
EUL/NGL and G/EFA voted closely together, as did PES and ALDE, and EPP-ED and UEN. Surprisingly, given that PES and EPP-ED are partners in the Grand Coalition, they were not each other's closest allies, although they did vote with each other about two-thirds of the time. IND/DEM did not have close allies within the political groups, preferring instead to cooperate most closely with the Non-Inscrits.
Table 2 of a 2005 discussion paper from the Institute for International Integration Studies by Gail McElroy and Kenneth Benoit analysed the group positions between April and June 2004, at the end of the Fifth Parliament and immediately before the 2004 elections. The results are given below, with 0% = extremely against, 100% = extremely for (except for the left-right spectrum, where 0% = extremely left-wing, 100% = extremely right-wing)
|Group||Issue on which position was analysed|
|Left-Right||Tax||Deeper Europe||Federal Europe||Deregulation||Common Foreign and Security Policy||Fortress Europe (immigration)||Green issues||Homosexual equality, abortion, euthanasia|
EUL/NGL and G/EFA were the most left-wing groups, UEN and EDD the most right-wing, and that was mirrored in their attitudes towards taxation, homosexual equality, abortion, euthanasia and controlling migration into the EU. The groups fell into two distinct camps regarding further development of EU authority, with UEN and EDD definitely against and the rest broadly in favor. Opinion was wider on the CFSP, with only PES, ELDR and EPP-ED in favor and the others against. Unsurprisingly, G/EFA was far more in favor of Green issues compared to the other groups.
Attitude to EU tax
Table 1 of an April 2008 discussion paper from the Centre for European Economic Research by Heinemann et al. analysed each Group's stance on a hypothetical generalised EU tax. The results for each Group are given in the diagram on the right with the horizontal scale scaled so that -100% = totally against and 100% = totally for. The results are also given in the table below, rescaled so that 0% = totally against, 100% = totally for.
|Group||Attitude to a hypothetical EU tax||Source|
G/EFA and PES were in favor of such a tax, IND/DEM and the Independents were definitely against, the others had no clear position.
Cohesion is the term used to define whether a Group is united or divided amongst itself. Figure 1 of a 2002 paper from European Integration online Papers (EIoP) by Thorsten Faas analysed the Groups as they stood in 2002. The results for each Group are given in the diagram on the right with the horizontal scale scaled so that 0% = totally split, 100% = totally united. The results are also given in the table below.
G/EFA, PES and ELDR were the most united groups, with EDD the most disunited.
Proportion of female MEPs
The March 2006 edition of "Social Europe: the journal of the European Left" included a chapter called "Women and Social Democratic Politics" by Wendy Stokes. That chapter gave the proportion of female MEPs in each Group in the European Parliament. The results for each Group are given in the diagram on the right. The horizontal scale denotes gender balance (0% = totally male, 100% = totally female, but no Group has a female majority, so the scale stops at 50%). The results are also given in the table below.
G/EFA, PES and ALDE were the most balanced groups in terms of gender, with IND/DEM the most unbalanced.
Attitude to Turkish accession
Martin Olof Persson's D-uppsats thesis for the Luleå University of Technology entitled "Turkey as a member of the European Union: a discourse analysis of the views presented in the European Parliament" considered each group's attitude towards Turkish accession. The results of that thesis are given in the table below.
|Group||Broad position||Specific position||Source|
|G/EFA||For||Supports full membership now|||
|PES||For||Supports full membership now|||
|EUL/NGL||For||Supports full membership now|||
|ALDE||For||Supports full membership eventually but not yet|||
|EPP-ED||Against||Supports associate membership (privileged partnership) but not full membership|||
|IND/DEM||Against||Supports economic cooperation (strategic partnership) but not full membership nor associate membership|||
|ITS||Against||Rejects economic cooperation, full membership and associate membership|||
G/EFA, PES, EUL/NGL and ALDE supported Turkish accession either now or later, EPP-ED, IND/DEM and ITS permanently rejected it, and UEN's position was unknown.
Party group switching in the European Parliament is the phenomenon where parliamentarians individually or collectively switch from one party group to the other. The phenomenon of EP party group switching is a well-known contributor to the volatility of the EP party system and highlights the fluidity that characterizes the composition of European parliamentary groups. On average 9% of all MEPs switch during legislative terms. Party group switching is a phenomenon that gained force especially in the legislatures during the 1990s, up to a maximum of 18% for the 1989-1994 term, with strong prevalence among representatives from France and Italy, though by no means limited to those two countries. There is a clear tendency of party group switches from the ideological extremes, both left and right, toward the center. Most switching takes place at the outset of legislative terms, with another peak around the half-term moment, when responsibilities rotate within the EP hierarchy.
- "EUobserver". EUobserver. Archived from the original on 18 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "EU Politics News and Policy". TheParliament.com. Archived from the original on 28 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- IIIS (Email). "Institute for International Integration Studies (IIIS) : Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Ireland". Tcd.ie. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "After Enlargement: Voting Patterns in the Sixth European Parliament", by Simon Hix and Abdul Noury, LSE/ULB, 3 January 2008 original figure estimated from "Figure 3. Spatial Map of EP6"
- [dead link]
- Leader of the UKIP accused of selling out, The Sunday Times, May 27, 2007[dead link]
- "After Enlargement: Voting Patterns in the Sixth European Parliament", by Simon Hix and Abdul Noury, LSE/ULB, 21 August 2008 original figure taken from "Table 3. Party Competition and Coalition Patterns"
- [dead link]
- "Party Groups and Policy Positions in the European Parliament" by Gail McElroy and Kenneth Benoit, Trinity College, Dublin, 10 March 2005 original figure taken from "Table 2. Policy Positions of European Party Groups", figure converted from 0 to 20 scale to 0% to 100% scale
- "Party Groups and Policy Positions in the European Parliament" by Gail McElroy and Kenneth Benoit, Trinity College, Dublin, 10 March 2005 original figure taken from "Table 2. Policy Positions of European Party Groups", figure converted from 0 to 20 scale to 0% to 100% scale and subtracted from 100% to have scale start at "extremely against"
- "SSRN-Party Groups and Policy Positions in the European Parliament by Gail McElroy, Kenneth Benoit". Papers.ssrn.com. 2006-08-07. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- Discussion Paper No.08-027 "Who’s afraid of an EU tax and why? - Revenue system preferences in the European Parliament", by Friedrich Heinemann, Philipp Mohl and Steffen Osterloh, ZEW Mannheim, April 2008 original figure taken from "Table 1: General EU tax preference (Q1) – comparisons of means", figure converted from -4 to +4 scale to 0% to 100% scale
- "DP 08-027" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "Why Do MEPs Defect? An Analysis of Party Group Cohesion in the 5th European Parliament" by Thorsten Faas, 12 March 2002 original figure estimated from "Figure 1: Cohesion in the EP by Party Groups"
- "Social Europe: the journal of the european left", issue 4, March 2006 original figure taken from chapter "Women and Social Democratic Politics" by Wendy Stokes, Senior Lecturer in Politics, London Metropolitan University
- "Publications from Luleå University of Technology". Epubl.ltu.se. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- Evans, A.M. and M. Vink (2012). Measuring Group Switching in the European Parliament: Methodology, Data and Trends (1979-2009). Análise Social, XLVII (202), 92-112. See also mcelroy, G. (2008), “Intra-Party politics at the trans-national level: Party switching in the European Parliament”. In D. Giannetti and K. Benoit (eds.), Intra-Party Politics and Coalition Governments in Parliamentary Democracies, London, Routledge, pp. 205-226.