Party Politicization Inside the European Council

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1. Summary

While the influence of political parties in the European Parliament (EP) has been identified and to some extend been studied, there is not much knowledge about “party politicization” (Tallberg/Johansson 2008, p. 1222) inside the European Council (EC). In their article the authors Tallberg and Johansson shed light on the question whether there exist “party politicization” (ibid) in the EC (cf. ibid). According to their approach there are three conditions under which party influence in the EC can occur: Firstly, the issue debated must be salient on the left-right dimension. Secondly, the party exerting influence should have the higher number of heads of state as members. And lastly, the party has to have a high degree of cohesion and capacity to mobilize. To test these hypotheses the authors use data generated through élite interviews and two case studies. The study concludes, that party politicization in the EC is far less likely to happen than e.g. in the EP (cf. ibid).

2. Critique

While providing a promising and convincing theoretical framework in their study, the authors unfortunately diminish the strength of their theoretical basis, as they use a severely flawed method for testing their hypotheses.

In the theoretical derivation of their hypotheses the authors rely on the partisan hypothesis. It “suggests that actors form coalitions primarily on the basis of ideological affinity, as defined by party affiliation” (ibid, p. 1224). Applied to the European Union (EU) level, this idea looks as follows: The main conflict dimension in the EU is the left right – dimension, “supplemented by a second ideological dimension (…), independence – integration”. Thus the authors expect this to be the case in the EC as well. It ...

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...e need for large-N studies (ibid, p. 1238). Additionally the number of interviewed officials has to be enlarged as well as the decision-making processes analyzed in the EC.

3. Conclusion

Ultimately, due to the methodological deficiencies displayed above, the study’s results are everything else but robust and able to generalize about party influence during decision-making in the EC. Thus the convincing theoretical framework is not properly tested. For the future, as discussed above, the flawed method has to be substituted by more appropriate procedures, which can shed more light on the hypotheses stated by the authors. In doing so, the results will be more relevant for the research conducted on the EC.

Works Cited
Tallberg, Jonas/Johansson, Karl Magnus (2008): Party politics in the European Council. In: Journal of European Public Policy, Vol. 15:8. p. 1222-1242.
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