Representation, Delegation and the Role of National Parties in the European Parliament
The later changed initial name of the project was "Party Group Cohesion in the European Parliament". The project analyzes the impact of national parties and transnational party groups on the behaviour of MEPs from a principal-agent perspective. According to the organizational structure of political groups and due to considerations on representation, national parties have to be conceptualized as main principals of MEPs. On the basis of a dataset, that contains information on the national party involvement of 251 MEPs, it can be shown that national parties employ control strategies on their MEPs in order to avoid agency losses. Moreover, it can be demonstrated that political group leaders are not in control of office allocation in the European Parliament (EP). They thus do not possess the status of principals which challenges the dominating conceptualization of MEPs as agents of two principals. In view of these results, the high levels of party group unity in roll call votes (RCVs) are surprising. The project offers a theoretical and empirically validated explanation for this puzzle: It shows that the RCV sample, which contains only one fourth of all votes, tends to overestimate party group cohesion. Party group leaders request RCVs only if they anticipate group cohesion to express their group’s policy position. The findings are based on a unique dataset that contains information on the characteristics of all 3592 votes that have been held in the first year of the sixth EP election period (2004-2005). Thus, it can be clearly demonstrated that national parties are the central aggregate actors in the EP.