Project C6:
(formerly B1)

The domestic foundation of governmental preferences over European politics



Prof. Dr. Thomas König



David Hilpert / Danielle Martin Ph.D.


Patrick Bayer, Ph.D.  / Dr. Elena Frech / Dr. Moritz Marbach / Dr. Moritz Osnabrügge

  Duration:01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021


A major challenge for EU decision-making is the ever-increasing diversity of governmental preferences, which promotes legislative gridlock, non-compliance, and the expansion of bureaucratic, judiciary, and central bank powers. Project C6 studies the micro foundations of governmental preferences: how domestic political factors, such as partisan ideology and electoral competition, determine governmental preferences and thus shape EU decision-making. In addition to the constitutional level, we investigate the impact of these partisan forces along the entire EU decision-making process: the legislation, transposition and enforcement stages. For this purpose, we have developed a new theory of national partyism and generated new data sets on the ideological positions of political parties and the EU’s history of EU decision-making. Finally, we will examine the role of the European Parliament and the tension between (partisan) responsibility for European integration and their responsiveness to voters’ interests in times of growing scepticism. The first phase of Project C6 focused on collecting and estimating data on governmental preferences at the constitutional level covering the Post-Maastricht period from 1993-2009 (Hug and König 2002; Bayer et al. 2014; Finke et al. 2012). For this period, we found constitutional change comprises two dimensions; one where mainly policy competences are pooled, the other where the institutional type of EU governance is designed. We also generated data on the legislative stage in the period 1985-2012 for both secondary and tertiary legislation (Junge et al. 2015), the transposition stage in the period 1978-2009 (König and Luig 2014) and the enforcement stage in the period 1989-2012 (Angelova et al. 2012, König et al. 2017). Furthermore, we have developed and applied new methods for estimating party preferences (König and Luig 2012; König et al. 2013). The second phase was dedicated to theory development and the analysis of these data. As an alternative to the predominant intergovernmentalist view on the socio-economic foundation of governmental preferences, we developed a theory that emphasizes their partisan ideological foundation and the uncertainty in interstate bargains. We also introduced uncertainty into agenda setting, which explains proposal failure – such as rejection in referendums and parliaments, and the withdrawal of proposals (Boranbay et al. 2016). This uncertainty of the agenda setter may also explain the (failed) enforcement of fiscal rules (Koehler and König 2016) and the recent development towards informal governance by early agreements that reduce the risk of failure (König et al. 2017). Furthermore, we showed that national parties’ attitudes towards European integration are determined by their partisan distributional and informational experiences from legislative activities (König and Luig 2017), suggesting when national party competition develops towards two-dimensional policy spaces with Eurosceptic parties on the peripheries (König et al. 2017). We also conducted online survey experiments to investigate the framing of the public’s (uncertain) views on European integration (Frech et al. 2015). During the third phase, we aim to integrate our analysis of the legislative, transposition and enforcement activities into our general theory on national partyism to investigate parties’ tension between popular responsiveness to voters and technocratic responsibility for European integration (Mair 2003; Bardi et al. 2014; Caramani 2017). Depending on the diversity of governmental preferences, we expect to find either more EU technocratic governance by informal coordination or an empowerment of other actors that share responsibility for European integration, such as the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank. These bureaucratic, judicial and central bank actors do not need to respond to voters’ interests and do therefore act as technocratic experts rather than popular representatives. This may explain the decreasing electoral turnout and public support for European integration as more technocratic responsibility for European integration comes at the expense of popular responsiveness to voters. Furthermore, in combination with the increasing importance of European integration by the pooling of policy competences, this may promote the rise of Eurosceptic parties. These parties are located at the peripheries of the party spectrum and are therefore unlikely to profit from EU decision-making – neither from the distribution of policies nor from informational advantages of holding government office. To identify this causal chain, we propose to investigate the parliamentary role in the interaction with the judiciary, bureaucracy, and the central bank. On closer inspection of this parliamentary role, we will also examine how the members of the European Parliament send messages in their declarations and speeches. In particular, we will analyse whether and how the different types of messages are responsive to the concerns of the voters, or emphasize the responsibility for European integration. Finally, we will study how voters interpret these messages to better understand the domestic constituency mechanism underlying EU decision making. We seek to understand challenges such as declining turnout, decreasing public support, and the rise of Eurosceptic parties in a consistent framework that captures the tension between responsibility and responsiveness. We expect our findings will provide novel insights into the role of the European Parliament and a basis for detailed recommendations on the pooling of policy competencies and the design of EU governance.