PEULEG: The legislative process in the European Union: a study of parliamentary majorities in codecision procedures (2016-2018)

Head of the Research Project : Prof. Nuria Font

One of the most important institutional developments in the history of legislative politics in the European Union has been the introduction of co-decision procedure (now Ordinary Legislative Procedure) in 1993. Co-decision has reinforced the legislative powers of the European Parliament, placing the parliamentary institution a co-legislator on an equal footing with the Council of Ministers. While co-decision has transformed the distribution of institutional powers in the EU (Burns 2005 and 2013, Costello and Thomson 2013, Kreppel 2002 Tsebelis and Garrett 2000), recent studies show that it has also had intra-institutional consequences within the European Parliament, especially with regard to the efficiency, transparency and legitimacy of the legislative practice (Brandsma 2015, Costello and Thomson 2013, Farrell and Héritier 2004, Héritier and Reh 2012, Jensen and Winzen 2011, Rasmussen 2010, Rasmussen and Reh 2013, Reh et al 2011, Burns et al 2013). These often tend to focus on the extent to which and the conditions under which co-decision agreements are the result of bargaining among a limited number of actors operating in inaccessible arenas (Brandsma 2015, Costello and Thomson 2013, Farrell and Héritier 2004, Rasmussen 2010).

However, the specialized literature has hardly analysed under what conditions co-decision bargaining may give rise to parliamentary decision-making that is supported by large majorities. This research aims to systematically analysing the conditions under which legislative decisions in the European Parliament under the co-decision are supported by large majorities. The objective of the research is twofold. First, it explores the extent to which the European Parliament position in different readings during the legislative procedure is supported by large majorities. Second, building on the theoretical debates that focus on the institutional dynamics around co-decision, the study tests several hypotheses –information asymmetry, party politics, policy issue attributes, openness and controversy of the process– to identify what factors favour parliamentary decision-making through wider majorities. In order to achieve these goals, we have built an original database covering the entire population of co-decision procedures adopted by the 2004-2009 and 2009-2014 European Parliament legislatures as well as the first half of the current term (2014 to 2016). The dataset contains more than fifty variables on co-decision at all stages of the parliamentary process and serves to conduct an statistical analysis. Complementarily, we conduct a qualitative case study in order to refine and nuance the results achieved in the quantitative analysis.

In brief, this research aims to making a contribution to the literature on legislative co-decision by allowing us to better understand under what conditions the legislative outcomes in the European Parliament are supported by large majorities and, hence, are more inclusive and representative. Such aspect is deemed to be of upmost importance in terms of representation and democratic legitimacy in the European Union.