Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

Towards an European Parliamentary Class? a Proposal for a Typology of the Meps

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

Towards an European Parliamentary Class? a Proposal for a Typology of the Meps

Article excerpt

1 INTRODUCTION

In all the political systems of western democracies there is a group of politicians that can be labelled as professional and, using Max Weber's famous statement, don't live only "for politics" but also "offpolitics" (Weber 1958). One of the most important things concerning the professionalization of politics is the opportunity to find a vast amount of different career patterns connected with several political systems. For example in many European countries - differently from the U.S. experience - the career within the party is an important prerequisite for a future position in the party lists and for a governmental appointment. But what can we say about the political careers at the European level? Have they similar features as the ones at the national level or are they characterized by proper features? The aim of this paper is to propose a valuable typology of the political careers in the EP based on the past experience of the elected at the EP, in order to analyse the issue concerning the strengthening of a new group of representatives in the EU, which have the opportunity to bring representation to the supranational level. The study of political careers represents a useful tool also to know the institutional environment in which these patterns take place; it allows us to understand institutional stability and dynamism (Cotta 1979; Ilonszki 2012). The first part of the paper is committed to the theoretical framework and to the literature devoted to this topic; in this part I'll introduce some important elements to study this new political class. The second part is focused on the presentation of the classification in order to sketch some possible profiles of the MEPs. In the last part I'll present the empirical data based on the analysis of the MEPs of the seventh European parliament.

2 THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE EUROPEAN POLITICAL CLASS

The literature devoted to the analysis of the European parties and the MEPs has focused its attention mainly on two aspects: the first is to evaluate the socialization power of the EP (Katz 1997; Franklin and Scarrow 1999; Scully and Farrell 2003; Scully 2005) and the second is mainly committed to understand who the "principal" of the MEPs is; the national parties or the European parliamentary groups (Hix 2002; Kreppel 2002; Faas 2003; Hix, Kreppel and Noury 2003; Hix, Noury and Roland 2007). For what concerns the socializing value of the EP (Franklin and Scarrow 1999; Scully 2005), the focus has been on the study of the socializing power in the European institutions, an element that can be able to promote more pro - European feelings in the members of these institutions.

The studies concerning the socialization within the EP highlights that there is not a "going native process" (Scully 2005) that takes place in the EP and this is confirmed by some empirical evidences like the fact, for example, that MEPs haven't a different vision of the European integration process compared to the MNPs.

For the second steam of research - the MEPs' loyalty - Hix, Noury and Roland (2007) used the expression of "agents with two principals" to define who "controls" the MEPs, referring to the national parties and to the European groups. According to the authors the main principal of the MEPs is the national party, which controls the selection and re-election mechanism, and in case of conflict between the national party and the European party group, the MEPs prefer to accord their loyalty to the home party rather than to the party group. This confirms that MEPs who desire a long political career are obviously primarily focused on re-election and on office seeking, and these goals are possible only acting in a well-defined way in order to gain the support of national parties (Faas 2003; Hix, Noury and Roland 2007; Strøm 2012). The high levels of cohesion that are noticed in the European party groups are explained by Hix et al. through the mechanism of delegation of organizational and leadership powers from the national parties to the European groups. …

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