Is parliamentary attention to the EU strongest when it is needed the most? National parliaments and the selective debate of EU policies


When do parliaments debate European Union policies? Normative arguments suggest that debates enhance government accountability. Others warn of government bias, declining debate near elections, and parties avoiding Eurosceptic publics. Our conclusions are more differentiated. We argue that rank-and-file parliamentarians rather than leaders initiate debates. Political incentives guide their debate selection towards salient policies in the countries in which voters care most. However, where the motivation Eurosceptic publics provide and institutions facilitating rank-and-file agenda-setting are lacking, EU law-making and European Council priorities will raise little parliamentary attention. Analysis of original data, using a Bayesian and multilevel framework, lends credibility to our views. Claims of a government bias, election effects, or trends towards more debate are unlikely to hold in all countries.

European Union Politics
Thomas Winzen
Thomas Winzen
Political Scientist

Political scientist interested in institutions and legitimate governance