This analysis is part of the Influence Index: a new data-driven ranking of MEPs by VoteWatch Europe and BCW Brussels. It is the only MEP ranking to measure influence through two crucial dimensions, namely:
– Political influence: the ability to change legislation, win votes, and shape debates;
– Social influence: the ability to reach people, shift the public conversation, and build a community of support.
The following report sheds light on the top MEPs by political influence.
The full results are available on the dedicated website.
Despite the prolonged Covid-19 crisis, 2021 has undeniably been a busy year for MEPs, as they were able to continue their legislative work. Through remote voting, the European Parliament has been able to make significant progress on several key dossiers across different policy areas. At this stage of the parliamentary term, we can therefore assess the political influence of MEPs more accurately compared to our analysis from last year.
Our latest findings show that political influence remains concentrated amongst senior members, even though younger MEPs have also proven to be increasingly influential. This year has notably seen the rise of new members in the top ranks (in particular when looking at specific policy areas), who are already well-positioned to continue playing a more important role in the future.
Our study also reveals which national groups have been punching above or below their weight when it comes to influencing European policies through the EP. Our findings notably show that German MEPs have been performing the best in terms of political influence, while French members have been underperforming (regardless of the size of their delegations).
This report provides the results of our objective and data-based potential of political influence (based on MEPs formal and informal leadership positions, committee membership, voting behaviour, and the actual legislative work, among others). To read the full methodology, click here
Note to the reader:
1. This report is not a normative assessment of the influence of MEPs on policy debates in the EU. This assessment should not be read as suggesting that influential MEPs are better politicians than their colleagues. In this report, influence is a neutral term, which indicates to what extent an MEP shapes EU policy, without considering the (ideological) direction in which that policy is shaped.
However, if you are interested in the direction MEPs influence EU legislation, check out the new VoteWatch analytical tool that identifies the kingmakers and swing-voters that can prove crucial in advancing your policy agenda. You can find all the policy areas covered here. For more information regarding this analytical tool or for custom analysis on the policy area that interests you, contact us at [email protected]
2. The level of influence of each and every MEP changes continuously due to several factors. These range from the internal dynamics of the EP (position reshuffles, rapporteurship appointments, etc), national politics (whether there is an election looming ahead, a change in the local political landscape, etc.) to the visibility of a topic on the current political agenda (it is logical that MEPs specialised in a topic that is currently being discussed will receive a boost in their scores).
3. The analysis concerns the diffuse dimension of influence of all MEPs in Parliament. Hence, the aim is to give a detailed picture of how influential MEPs are regardless of the particular debate being discussed. As MEPs specialise in specific policy areas, the sectorial analyses allow us to observe how the dynamics of the EP differ when we concentrate on particular policy dimensions. For more information, check out our previous influence assessments by policy area:
Top 10 MEPs
#1: Once again, data reveals Italian David Maria Sassoli (S&D) as the most politically influential MEP, maintaining his title from 2020. This is mainly due to his role as President of the European Parliament.
Find his full profile here.
#2: Spanish MEP Iratxe García Pérez (S&D) comes in at second place in this year’s political Influence Index, also maintaining her position from 2020. Serving as an MEP since 2004, she is also the leader of the S&D group, as of 2019.
Find her full profile here.
#3: Moving up from eighth place to third, stands Romanian MEP Dacian Cioloș from Renew. Although this is his first term as an MEP, he notably holds great political influence due to his previous position as Romanian Prime Minister (2015-2017) and EU Commissioner for Agriculture. He was the leader of Renew Europe until October 2021, making him a key player within the European Parliament.
Find his full profile here.
#4: CDU member Manfred Weber, from the EPP group, is currently the fourth most influential MEP when it comes to political influence. Currently serving his fourth parliamentary term, he is notably the leader of the EPP Group in the European Parliament.
Find his full profile here.
#5: Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA) has moved up a spot since 2020, securing her place as the fifth most politically influential MEP in our influence ranking. Serving her fifth term as a Finnish member of the European Parliament and a key MEP to watch on Green Deal policies, she has held the EP Vice-Presidency since 2017.
Find her full profile here.
#6: The sixth most politically influential MEP is Belgian Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR), making his debut appearance in our list of Top 10 most politically influential MEPs. His influence comes from his previous position as Minister of Finance of Belgium (2014-2018), which he has carried through into his MEP career, serving as the Chair of the Committee on Budgets. Importantly, Johan Van Overtveldt is amongst the most active members on legislation, holding one of the highest number of rapporteurship positions in the current parliamentary term.
Find his full profile here.
#7: Another newcomer in the top 10 most politically influential MEPs in 2021 is Spanish S&D member Juan Fernando López Aguilar. Currently serving his third term, he is the chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). Importantly, he has been rapporteur on several dossiers, including those related to data protection or Covid-19 measures.
Find his full profile here.
#8: Coming in eighth place in the 2021 political Influence Index is Italian MEP Antonio Tajani (EPP). Currently serving his fifth term, he was notably the previous president of the European Parliament. In this parliamentary term, Antonio Tajani is the Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO), and also presides over the Conference of Committee Chairs, the main political body coordinating the legislative work of parliamentary committees.
Find his full profile here.
#9: Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA) has climbed his way up the ladder to claim ninth place as the most politically influential MEP. Member of the European Parliament since 2009, as the Greens/EFA coordinator in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), Giegold has been active on several files related to EU taxation (including as rapporteur).
Find his full profile here.
#10: The last MEP to enter the 2021 top 10 ranking when it comes to political influence is Dimitrios Papadimoulis (Greece, The Left). Currently serving his first term, he is one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament. As a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), he has also been rapporteur on the 2021 annual report on the European Central Bank (ECB).
Find his full profile here.
Click HERE to find out the names of the other MEPs that made it onto our list of the top 100 most politically influential MEPs.
Top 5 Rising Stars in 2021
As we are now approaching the mid-term reshuffle in the European Parliament, we are now able to assess which MEPs have been able to gain more influence since our 2020 Influence Index. Below are the top five rising stars when it comes to the political influence in the European Parliament, across all policy areas.
#1: The German MEP Anna Cavazzini is serving her first term in parliament for the Greens, and has managed to escalate greatly in our Political Influence Index in the last year, moving up 375 places in the list. In 2020 she was already Vice-Chair in the delegation for relations with the Federative Republic of Brazil. Earlier this year, she was appointed Chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), further strengthening her political influence. In addition to these significant leadership positions, she has been rapporteur for the “Evaluation of the Geo-blocking regulation”, a very relevant piece of legislation for the European single market. Moreover, her political influence has risen due to her work as a shadow rapporteur for several reports, a significant amount related to EU relations after the UK’s withdrawal. Find her full profile here.
#2: Dutch MEP Jeroen Lenaers, from the EPP group, is worth mentioning not only because he has gained several ranks (+243), but also because he currently holds the 25th place in our 2021 Political Influence Ranking. He is the Vice-Chair of the Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries (DMAS), and has more recently earned the role of EPP Coordinator of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). In that context, he has taken part in several dossiers as a rapporteur, including with regards to police cooperation or the European travel Information and Authorisation System. His extensive work as a shadow rapporteur has also allowed him to significantly increase his political influence in the EP in 2021. Find his full profile here.
#3: Romanian MEP Vlad-Marius Botoș (Renew) comes in third in our list of politically influential rising stars, entering the top 150 in 2021. In addition to his role as the vice-chair of the Delegation to the EU-Albania stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee which he obtained in 2020, he has also acquired the role of Vice-Chair of the Committee on Regional Development (REGI) this year. On the legislative side, he is shadow rapporteur on the COD regarding “European capitals of culture 2020-2033”, as well as an opinion rapporteur for important reports related to energy infrastructure or intellectual property, amongst other relevant subjects. Find his full profile here.
#4: Estonian member Urmas Paet, from Renew Europe, is our next rising star of 2021 when it comes to political influence. He has managed to shape EU policies more effectively partly thanks to his newly appointed role as a Vice-Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET). He has also been the rapporteur of the EP dossier regarding EU Cyber defence capabilities, a procedure which has been developing mainly throughout 2021 and was recently completed. In addition, several roles as shadow rapporteur as well as opinion rapporteur make Urmas Paet an increasingly relevant player in the European Parliament. Find his full profile here.
#5: Another MEP deserving a mention is Danish Renew member Karen Melchior, who has entered the top 100 most politically influential MEPs this year. As the Renew coordinator in the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), she has been highly influential in shaping EU policies. In addition to the impact she exerts within her group, she has strengthened her power position by taking on the role of rapporteur on several legislative procedures. She was also an opinion rapporteur on the very important matter of European Data Governance, which is still in the process of approval. Find her full profile here.
Which political groups are punching above their weight the most?
The numbers represent the difference (in percentages) between the share of influence and the share of seats of each political group.
Our findings reveal that the S&D MEPs are performing the best when it comes to average political influence in the European Parliament (regardless of the size of the group). Importantly, both S&D and Renew political families are performing significantly better than their counterparts; this is in line with previous VoteWatch observations that the balance of power in the European Parliament is shifting towards the left. Both groups have been able to deliver strong voting performances, finding themselves on the winning side of plenary votes more often than other political groups.
The third best performing political group in 2021 is the EPP, who is also outperforming in terms of political influence (regardless of the size of the group), and remains a top performer, in particular on EU digital and external policies). Despite winning less votes on average, the EPP can count on the most experienced cohort of MEPs, with several of its members having been in the European Parliament for more than a decade. Their long stint in the EP allowed EPP MEPs to build stronger connections in Brussels and learn how to better navigate through the intricate EU decision-making process. Moreover, a substantial share of EPP members belong to parties in government, providing them with substantial links to the other co-legislative institution, the EU Council. Importantly, the update of this assessment next year will tell us to what extent then EPP will manage to remain politically influential in the EP despite the potential historic changes in Germany, where CDU/CSU is likely to end up in the opposition for the first time since 2005.
Another important trend that should be highlighted concerns Greens/EFA, who are surpassing expectations and performing relatively better than the size of their group in the European Parliament. Once again, this points to the general shift towards the left in the current parliamentary term, with the Greens increasingly winning votes and influencing EU policies. This is particularly true when it comes to Green Deal and Health policies, where they currently are the third most politically influential group (regardless of their size).
Most MEPs from the remaining political families seem to be struggling more, as these groups are less politically influential than what would be expected when looking at the size. This is particularly true for the ID group, as they continue to remain isolated in the European Parliament. However, when it comes to The Left, they are fourth after Greens/EFA on Green Deal and Health policies (regardless of the size of the group), also showing that smaller political groups have been able to exert more influence over EU policies in light of the fragmentation of the current parliamentary term. In the case of ECR, for instance, they are the fourth best performing group when it comes to EU external policies (regardless of their group size), showing that the balance of power in this policy area remains towards the centre-to-the-right side of the political spectrum.
Which national groups are punching above their weight the most?
The colours in the visuals show the most politically influential national delegations in the European Parliament (regardless of their size), while the numbers correspond to the change in ranking with regards to their 2020 performance.
Following the trend identified by our previous year Influence Index, the four best performing national groups (regardless of their size) remain in the top four positions: Germany, Spain, Romania and Portugal. MEPs from these four member states are able to secure prominent positions within the European Parliament and the most influential political groups. In this regard, their performance clearly indicates the importance of having a large share of MEPs from the three most politically influential political groups – S&D, Renew and the EPP. Conversely, those member states with a large share of MEPs in the least influential groups, such as ID, ECR or The Left, are negatively impacted by this fact, as demonstrated by the cases of France and Italy (achieving relatively less than expected given their size).
Germany remains the most overachieving member state when it comes to overall political influence in the European Parliament. As the largest member state, Germany is the member state holding more chairmanships in parliamentary committees, notably AFET, INTA, IMCO, AGRI, CULT and CONT. Additionally, some of these committees are amongst the largest and most relevant EP committees, which proves the relevance of some German committee chairs, such as David McAllister (AFET), Bernd Lange (INTA), Anna Cavazzini (IMCO) or Norbert Lins (AGRI). When it comes to the political groups, German MEPs are distributed mainly among the most politically influential political groups. Notably, Germany has the largest EPP national delegation and Manfred Weber is the chair of the political group, which makes him the 4th most politically influential MEP. With CDU/CSU losing power in Germany, however, we could see a certain loss of influence from German EPP members, in favour of S&D or Greens/EFA German members.
The 2021 Influence Index reveals Spain as the second most overachieving member state in terms of proportional political influence in the European Parliament. With 59 MEPs representing Spain, they wield political influence due to their hold of important positions within the European political groups as well as Committees. Iratxe García Peréz currently chairs the S&D group, meanwhile 5 Spanish MEPs are Vice-Chairs of EP Groups: Luis Garciano (Vice-Chair of Renew), Esteban González Pons (Vice-Chair of EPP), Sira Rego (Vice-Chair of The Left), Hermann Tertsch (Vice-Chair of ECR) and Ernest Urtasun (Vice-Chair of Greens). 3 Spanish MEPs currently preside as Chairs of Committees within the European Parliament, allowing them the chance to exert influence on reports within specific policy areas. It should be noted that the majority of Spanish MEPs are affiliated either with the EPP (13 MEPs), S&D (21 MEPs), or Renew (9 MEPs), which are considered to be the among parliamentary groups with the most political influence, according to our data and Influence Index.
According to our Influence Index data, Romania has increased its political influence in the European Parliament since last year’s rankings when it was placed in fourth place. Romania is now the third most politically influential EU member state – when looking at the proportional influence. This can be explained by its concentration of MEPs in the EPP, which is not only the largest political group in the EP with 187 members, but it is also among the most politically influential as demonstrated by our Influence Index. Collectively, they hold sixteen Vice-Chair committee positions and three Chair committee titles. Siegfried Mureșan and Rovana Plumb are Vice-Chairs for the EPP and the S&D, respectively. As previously mentioned, these two political groups carry the highest influential power within the EP. It is worth mentioning MEP Dacian Cioloș, currently serving his first parliamentary term, he was Chair of Renew since his arrival to the European Parliament until very recently, which no doubt has contributed to Romania’s overall political influence ranking.
Another country that ranks amongst the top performers when it comes to political influence is Poland (regardless of the size of its EP delegation). Importantly, Polish MEPs have strong positions in both the EPP and ECR Group, meaning they are can more easily have an impact on their group’s positions. In light of this, they are particularly influential (politically) on EU digital and external policies, as both the EPP and ECR are performing relatively well in these policy areas. Lastly, while from a general point of view Poland is somewhat underperforming on health policies, Bartosz Arłukowicz and Joanna Kopcińska are both in the top 10 MEPs when it comes to political influence.
At the other end of our political influence ranking Italy, Hungary and France take the bottom three places – all of which did not feature in our last three place rankings of 2020, demonstrating a decline of overall political influence in the EP.
Albeit the second largest EU member state, with 79 MEPs, our analysis ranks France in last position of the Influence Index 2021 for overall political influence. French MEPs are members of a wide range of the parliamentary groups, with only 14 of them affiliating with the two biggest groups – EPP and S&D. Instead, 29 French MEPs, over a third, are affiliated with ID (23 MEPs) and The Left (6), the two lowest ranking political groups in terms of proportional political influence – this acts as a natural barrier for French MEPs exerting political influence in the EP. Although France ranked at the bottom of this particular ranking, French MEPs remain highly influential, particularly those from Renew. For example, Pascal Canfin, Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, Nathalie Loiseau and Pierre Karleskind have all ranked at the top of our rankings in their policy areas, while Stéphane Séjourné recently took the Renew presidency. The French take-over of Renew Europe is rather important to increase the clout of the French governing party in the EP, especially in light of its upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU and the looming French presidential election in April 2022.
Hungary observes a widespread allocation of its MEPs in terms of political group affiliation; with the majority (13) of its total number of 21 MEPs being independent of any parliamentary group. Importantly, the political influence of Hungarian MEPs as a whole has been affected by the departure of Fidesz members from the EPP, which does not mean that MEPs from other national parties have lost influence. Two Hungarian MEPs are currently Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament, namely Klára Dobrev and Lívia Járóka, while Renew MEP Katalin Cseh is notably a Vice-Chair of Renew. Stakeholders should notably keep an eye on Fidesz MEPs possibly joining another political group, as this could increase their political influence.
Although Italy has 76 MEPs, they are similarly widely spread across the various European parliamentary groups. For example, there are 24 Italian MEPs who are members of the political group ID, the lowest political group in terms of overall political influence. This is more than the number of Italian MEPs of the EPP (11) or the S&D (18) – the two largest and amongst the top influential political groups in the EP as observed by our Influence Index data in 2021 and in 2020. It should also be mentioned that there are 9 Italian MEPs independent of any parliamentary group within the EP which naturally limits their political influence as an individual. For comparison, Germany, the most politically influential member state according to our Influence Index, has only 2 independent MEPs.
Click HERE for more detailed information on the methodology for the assessment of political influence.
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