Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I'm trying to very quickly become an expert on the European Parliament? Why? Well, it turns out it's a pretty fascinating legislature, and I'm considering spending some of my sabbatical year in London and/or Amsterdam studying it. What makes it fascinating from my perspective is the intense partisanship: there are strong, ideologically-driven transnational parties that hold together on a broad range of issues. This occurs despite the facts that members of the EP enjoy little control over their legislature's agenda and that the parties contain members from very different geographic regions. If you want to read up on this, check out Democratic Politics in the European Parliament by Simon Hix, Abdul Noury, and GĂ©rard Roland. It's quite good.

Another curious feature is that being a member of the European Parliament (MEP) is really not very prestigious, even though the EP's powers have been growing in recent years. It's actually a great deal of work, as MEPs must constantly shuttle between their home country, Brussels, and Strasbourg. Meanwhile, most voters don't really know who they are, so they enjoy very little glory for their efforts.

How lousy is an EP seat? Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tried to buy off a hooker by appointing her to the EP, and she felt that she'd been ripped off.

I really hope to meet some of these people.

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