This project is about the effects of institutional design on decision-making in the European Union. Specifically: delegation to informal inter-institutional legislative bargaining (the 'informal arena'). I develop a spatial complete information model to explain the decision to delegate to the 'informal arena' and test its empirical implications. The meta-theoretical umbrella for this project is New Institutionalism (more specifically, Rational Choice Institutionalism) and I view the decision to delegate through a principal-agent lens, i.e., delegation may result in policy outcomes that differ from counterfactual non-delegated acts (agency-drift). I contribute to the theoretical and empirical literatures on informal law-making in the European Union and legislative organisation more generally.
In the EU, the ‘formal arena’ co-exists with the ‘informal arena.’ In the formal arena, bills shuttle back and forth between two chambers in a maximum of three reading stages. In the informal arena, inter-institutional negotiations are delegated. The delegations meet behind closed doors and the resulting compromise is rubber-stamped by the parent chambers. The extant literature suggests that law-making in the informal arena leads to agency-drift.
The questions that I address in this project are: when does delegation to the informal arena take place and, equally, when does delegation not take place? Furthermore, does delegation lead to agency-drift?
My findings suggest that delegation is less likely, the greater the risk of agency-drift and more likely the greater the legislative workload cost of not delegating. I show that the bicameral system alters the incentive structure of legislative actors such that agency-drift is rare or moderate if it occurs.
Who gains legislative influence in early agreement negotiations (trilogues) between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union? Practitioners from both institutions suspect that it is the other side. Meanwhile, critics point at trilogues' lack of transparency. This article proposes that legislative power and institutional transparency are inversely related: Opacity makes an actor more influential in political negotiations. The argument is tested on a matched sample of legislative files from the 1999–2009 period. The findings suggest that the European Parliament became more influential in early agreement negotiations — where it became opaque vis-à-vis the Council. In such negotiations, the relative influence of the European Parliament substantially increased; by contrast, the European Parliament did not gain influence in negotiations where it remained transparent.
Data innovation for international development: An overview of natural language processing for qualitative data analysis
with Anna Hanchar IEEE Proceedings of the 2017 International Conference on the Frontiers and Advances in Data Science (FADS), Xi'an, China, 2017. article
Availability, collection and access to quantitative data, as well as its limitations, often make qualitative data the resource upon which development programs heavily rely. Both traditional interview data and social media analysis can provide rich contextual information and are essential for research, appraisal, monitoring and evaluation. These data may be difficult to process and analyze both systematically and at scale. This, in turn, limits the ability of timely data driven decision-making which is essential in fast evolving complex social systems. In this paper, we discuss the potential of using natural language processing to systematize analysis of qualitative data, and to inform quick decision-making in the development context. We illustrate this with interview data generated in a format of micro-narratives for the UNDP Fragments of Impact project.
Multilevel regression with post-stratification (MrP) has quickly become the gold standard for small area estimation problems. While the first MrP models did not include context-level information, current applications almost always make use of such information. When using MrP, there is an inherent problem of how to select the appropriate response model and, specifically, how to choose the optimal set of context-level variables. In this paper, we employ a number of approaches from the statistical learning literature to provide a systematic approach to estimating MrP models. We re-analyze 89 items from public opinion surveys in the US and demonstrate that our systematic approach outperforms selection of context-level variables based on researchers' prior knowledge even in the US, which has a rich tradition of public opinion research.
Do Euroskeptics in the European Parliament participate in voting and are they more or less cohesive than their Europhile peers? Theories on rational voting, soicalization into international organizations and niche party behavior lead to different expectations of how Euroskeptics operate in the European Parliament. This article analzyes a quarter century of voting records (1994–2019) of all members of the European Parliament and systematically analzyes the behavior of Euroskeptics across policy areas and over time. Results are pending — we are currently wrapping up the data collection.
In this paper, we examine how the intensity of a conflict and external involvement in civil wars determines the agenda in the subsequent peace negotiations. In particular, we demonstrate that solving commitment problems related to disarmament and ceasefires trumps other issues, the more intensive the conflict. Furthermore, we show that external involvement, such as mediation, influences the negotiation agenda. In particular, mediators prioritize statebuilding over solving grievances. We contribute by providing evidence for the inter-linkage between the fighting and the negotiation stages in a conflict. Furthermore, by using un-supervised natural language processing on 1135 peace agreement texts negotiated in the period 1990–2016, we identify sixteen commonly discussed topics in negotiations and explore how the salience of these negotiated issues changes over time. We employ structural topic models to link the qualitative content of negotiation texts to covariates such as conflict intensity and external involvement.
Priors for bridging: A dynamic scaling model for comparable preference estimates across legislative chambers and over time
with Reto Wüest
Actor preferences are an important component of legislative theories and scholars of legislative politics often face the problem that preference data is not comparable across legislative chambers or over time. We propose a novel method that allows for over-time and cross-chamber comparisons. Comparability is achieved by using prior information to pin down the preference scales in a Bayesian Item Response Theory model. Expert opinion on party preferences serves as prior information for individual legislators and prefence estimates from previous legislative terms provide priors for re-elected representatives. We demonstrate our approach by scaling the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Our method provides preference estimates for all individual members of the European Parliament and member state governments in the Council of the European Union in two dimensions for the 1994–2019 period. The estimates have high face validity and by combining data sources, we mitigate weaknesses such as strategic selection in roll-calls and small N in expert opinion data.
Twenty years of committee organisation in the European Parliament: Ideology and representativeness of the standing committees 1994–2014
Are the standing committees of the European Parliament representative of the chamber as a whole or are they ideologically biased and should, therefore, be expected to produce biased policy? Theories of legislative organization lead to competing expectations and the empirical literature has provided mixed evidence. This article re-evaluates the effects of ideology, expertise, and partisanship on legislative organization in the European Parliament's standing committees. The analysis employs a quarter century of voting records (roll-calls) from the European Parliament (1994–2019), matched with web-scraped information on each individual representative in that period. The findings lend support to the informational rationale: Expertise explains committee membership across every committee over the twenty-five year period whereas ideology and partisanship are unrelated to legislative organization in the European Parliament.
Individuals, disaggregation of the state and negotiation tactics: Evidence from the European Union
with Nicola Chelotti
Why do states use certain negotiation tactics more than others? By arguing that the personal characteristics of individual negotiators help to explain political choices, this article contributes to the reinvigorated literature on individuals and International Relations. In particular, it takes issue with one of the most common challenges of this literature – how, given all the bureaucracies they are embedded in, individuals are able to shape political decisions. The article argues that one particular group of actors – diplomatic negotiators – have de facto acquired ultimate policy-making responsibilities, most prominently in the selection of tactics. The image of the negotiating state is thus re-conceptualized. Not only is the fiction of a hierarchical and vertically organized state rejected, evidence is presented of the opposite trend – what might be called the ‘partial individualization’ of the state. Next, by testing four individual characteristics (experience, autonomy, social and epistemic motivations) against an original database of 138 questionnaires completed by national officials in EU foreign policy, the article shows that these characteristics matter in explaining variation in the use of tactics, although this does not apply to all the negotiating activities. The article also reveals that the explanatory power of individual-level characteristics is limited under certain conditions.
Measures of public opinion on European integration are an increasingly important independent or dependent variable in many analyses of European politics, not least due to the progressing politicization of the EU. However, applied researchers typically use a single survey item as their measure of public opinion. This poses problems arising from discontinuations and interruptions of items in survey time-series as well as concerns about differential item functioning across countries, i.e. respondents from different contexts have different reference points from which they evaluate a question. We develop measures of opinion on European integration that are more comparable over time and across countries using group-level item-response theory models that recover yearly estimates of public opinion on integration in all EU member states on the following dimensions: (1) a utilitarian dimension; (2) an affective dimension; (3) an institutional dimension; (4) and an integration dimension. We select public opinion items from Eurobarometer surveys between 1974 and 2017, evaluate the face and predictive validity of our measures, discuss applications, and make the data available for academic use.
Strategic rapporteur selection in informal inter-institutional EU-negotiations
In informal interinstitutional decision making in the European Union, delegations from the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union meet behind closed doors to reach a compromise that is subsequently rubber stamped by the parent chambers. The literature on informal decision-making points to the risk of policy drift towards key figures. Both chambers should select the key negotiators strategically if the potential for agency drift exists. I test whether the Parliament selects its key negotiator, the rapporteur, strategically using new data on individual preferences of all members of Parliament, national and European party affiliations as well as committee memberships within Parliament. To identify the effect of informal negotiations on rapporteur selection, I exploit a rule change in 1999, where file conclusion using informal first reading agreements became possible for the first time. I estimate local average treatment effects using a regression discontinuity approach and provide evidence for strategic selection. The Parliament selects more centrist agents overall and more moderate party group members. Five-hundred placebo tests over a twenty-years period illustrate the robustness of the findings.
Measuring political influence: Agenda-setting power in the European Union
This research note is on the conceptualization of influence, to improve validity of its measurement and thereby our understanding of the legislative process. I discuss a current conceptualization used in innovative research on the power of the European Commission to shape policy, showing that theoretical contradictions may arise. I design a new measure that solves these issues by making the counterfactual expectation explicit and incorporating it into the measure. I replicate the research on the Commission's power and show (1) the Commission is, indeed, successful in seeing its preferences converted into policy, (2) contrary to the original piece, the Commission seems to possess genuine agenda setting power, (3) measurement matters as it shapes outcomes. This discussion may inform research on related work, such as the influence of lobby groups, parties, members of international organizations and more.
The European Union is an exceptionally complex political system; its bicameral legislative process in particular needs to overcome a potential plethora of veto-points. At the same time, the EU proves to be a productive negotiation “machine”. This paper explores the factors that “oil this machine;” more specifically, we ask how the Union can adopt legislation in the face of an unfavourable ideological (left–right) preference constellation. We argue that actors will make generous concessions on the left–right dimension of political conflict 1) to uphold the overall system of supranational cooperation, 2) to capitalise on the reciprocity that this system affords, and 3) when they act under permissive consensus. The argument is tested on a new data set of codecision files that either amend or replace existing legislation (1999–2014 ). Given ideological divergence, two-thirds of these files — labelled "gridlocked" — should not have been adopted, because one of the veto-players should have preferred the status quo. Lending support to our argument, the analysis shows that homogenous elite-level preferences on continued cooperation and the possibility for issue-linkage can explain the adoption of such gridlocked legislation; however, the potential for compromise decreases as Euroscepticism rises. These findings contribute to established debates about bargaining under complexity and the dimensionality of the EU’s political space — and raise questions about the EU’s future ability to overcome gridlock under conditions of contestation.