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Governing Europe for the people? Citizen representation in European Union policy-making

Wratil, Christopher (2016) Governing Europe for the people? Citizen representation in European Union policy-making. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The degree to which European Union (EU) policy-making is representative of citizens’ preferences is a central contested issue in the debate over the EU’s ‘democratic deficit’. Previous studies have demonstrated that in many cases political representatives share their voters’ attitudes to the EU. However, this research has rarely considered the substance of actual legislative policy-making in the EU institutions. Scrutinising the popular image that EU policy-making is unresponsive to public demands, the thesis investigates EU-level representation along the ‘domestic route’, on which citizens’ preferences intrude policymaking through their national governments in the Council of the EU. Using a range of original and existing datasets, the four papers investigate three classic assessment criteria of representation (mandate fulfilment, responsiveness, congruence) with methods ranging from mixed effects regressions to quantitative text analysis. Three central findings emerge: first, national governments are responsive to their domestic public opinion when negotiating and voting on legislative acts in the EU. Regarding legislative conflicts over left-right issues, responsiveness is stronger with majoritarian than proportional electoral systems and peaks when national elections are imminent. When it comes to pro-anti integration conflicts, responsiveness is conditional on the salience of EU issues in national political arenas. Second, executive coordination and parliamentary oversight in EU affairs limit the discretion of national ministers in EU negotiations and help governments to deliver their electoral mandates. Third, final EU policy output is most responsive to and congruent with the views of those national publics that have clear-cut opinions on a policy issue and care intensely about it. These findings are evidence of surprising patterns of citizen representation in EU policy-making. They suggest that politicisation of the EU and the diffusion of executive coordination and parliamentary oversight in EU affairs could strengthen representation. Yet, evidence remains scarce that better representation will end the EU’s legitimacy crisis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Christopher Wratil
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > European Institute
Supervisor: Hobolt, Sara

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