Top analyses by VoteWatch – deep insights into the EU machinery

While political environments are often being described as ‘bubbles’ that are detached from the rest of society, they are far from being immune to the most dramatic international developments. After facing significant disruption due to the wave of terrorist attacks in 2015 – 2016, the EU political life is now sliding towards a standstill due to the ongoing Corona Virus pandemic. Politics is a very social endeavour: elections, rallies, conferences, conventions and meetings are the bread-and-butter of political practitioners. While the current emergency is forcing you to spend more time at home and to put PR activities on hold, why not trying to turn this situation around to your advantage? How? Make use of this break to reflect, analyse and review your long-term strategies both on personal and a professional level (perhaps you could be inspired by the fact that Isaac Newton developed his theories while working at home during the plague). 

While doing so, it could be useful to take a look at our top political analyses from the last few months. In this report, we provide you with an overview of our most popular (i.e. most read) reports since the start of the new legislative term in July 2019. Find out whether you missed any of our analyses of the political dynamics within the EU institutions: changing composition of the institutions, new patterns of coalition-building on EU policy, influence of different national groups, the level of support for the agenda by the European Commission and much more.

VoteWatch Europe is a leading intelligence source on EU policy-making. Our premium subscribers (such as EU public and private influencers, top universities, etc.), benefit from the most advanced analytical tools in EU politics. We also deliver tailored research, presentations or training on MEPs’ and governments’ likely positions and majority building in specific areas. If you are interested in a private service, send us an email ([email protected]) or give us a call (+32 2 318 11 88).

Top 10 most popular reports by VoteWatch:

Some stakeholders are rather busy and have little time to look into the data themselves. Consequently, they may prefer to take a look at our analytical reports, which effectively combine data-driven insights with our longstanding expertise in EU politics. Each month, our analyses reach thousands of top decision-makers, stakeholders, journalists, and researchers. Obviously, some studies are more popular than others. Below, you will find an overview of our most popular analyses. Check whether you missed any of our top insights. 

1) European Parliament: Current and Future Dynamics

Despite being published in January,  our analysis on the changing dynamics in the European Parliament was the most read report since July. This analysis provides stakeholders with crucial information regarding what they should expect in terms of coalition-building on key policy issues. While the overall balance of power in the European Parliament is shifting towards the left, centre-right coalitions are still predominant when it comes to international trade, foreign policy, and budgets. Political fragmentation is also affecting the internal cohesion of European political groups, in particular in the case of the EPP and ECR groups. The report also provides insights on the internal balance of power within the European groups, namely which national groups are more successful in influencing the political lines of their European groups. For instance, we found that before Brexit, the French members of Renew Europe were more often on the minority side of votes within the centrist group, at least when compared to the British Liberal Democrats. This analysis is a must-read for all stakeholders who want to brush up their knowledge with up-to-date data-driven analyses.

2) Top 100 most influential EU Parliamentarians

In this report, VoteWatch provides the main findings of its latest influence assessment of the Members of the European Parliament, which took place towards the end of the previous term. Right before the election of the new EP, stakeholders wanted to know which MEPs had the most influence in the EP decision-making during the previous 5 years. VoteWatch looked into who drafted the most important parliamentary reports, held the most coveted leadership roles, and developed the strongest political networks. This provides stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of what happened and why in the 2014-2019 term. While MEPs come and go (only one-third of current MEPs are incumbent), VoteWatch never stops keeping track of the changing dynamics of the EP’s decision-making. Stay tuned for our next influence assessment and find out which MEPs are most likely to influence EU policy.

3) New leaders of the EP: who are the winners and losers from the allocation of top posts?

This report took stock of the results of the contentious leadership negotiations that followed the EP elections. VoteWatch showed which national groups of MEPs, as well as national parties, were the most successful in getting the most important posts in this legislative institution. In this analysis, we also compared the strength of key national parties within the EP and their power/representation within the other EU institutions (Commission, EU Council). Among the interesting findings, we noticed an increase in the influence of the French delegation within the EP compared to the previous term, while the power of the Italians diminished substantially. We also found that, while German MEPs are the most represented overall, the Czech were the most successful proportionally.

4) Full background of new MEPs: what does it tell us?

In this report, VoteWatch took an in-depth look into the resumes of the MEPs. As insiders know, the educational and professional background of decision-makers plays a key role in the way they perceive political trade-offs and the weight they attribute to different arguments (e.g. statistical vs. anecdotal evidence). Our analysis showed that the new European Parliament is mainly composed of MEPs with a background in humanities and social sciences (around 40%), while the remaining portion is equally divided between Parliamentarians with backgrounds in economics, legal affairs, and hard sciences. Additionally, there are significant differences between MEPs’ professional backgrounds along political and geographical lines. For instance, over one-third of  Southern MEPs have a background in legal affairs.

5) Which MEPs are the most supportive of migration, EU enlargement, EU social policy?

In this report, we looked closely at all the votes cast so far on 3 of the hottest topics at the moment, namely migration, EU enlargement, and employment/social affairs in order to assess how different political players are positioning themselves. We found, among others, that Portuguese MEPs are on average the most supportive of open migration policies, whereas the Hungarian delegation is most opposed. In this report, you can also find out more about the ECR’s fundamental changes, such as becoming the most supportive parliamentary group of EU enlargement. We also found that while Cypriot, Maltese, and Irish policymakers are the most enthusiastic of giving more powers to the EU when it comes to social spending and harmonization, they are at the same time among the staunchest opponents to strengthening EU’s powers when it comes to harmonization of taxation policies. 

6) Why is the vote on Ursula von der Leyen secret?

This short piece looked at which MEPs and parties wanted to keep the vote on the election of the EC President secret and why. In fact, the previous procedural decision provided us with important clues of what was going on behind the scenes. 

7) The European Parliament at 40: A More Mature Institution? Evolution of the EP committees’ size

This report looks at the evolution of the committees’ size in order to find out what the changing political priorities of MEPs are. We found that the size of the EP committees whose legislative function matches the EU policy priorities (economy, migration, technology, energy and climate) has increased dramatically, while committees with more deliberative functions have lost ground. This is particularly visibile in the decline, in terms of popularity, of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), which used to be the biggest committee before slipping into the third position right after the EU elections. 

8) Concentration of nationalities in key EP committees reveals agendas

Our analysis of the concentration of nationalities within the committees of the European Parliament reveals the dominant agendas from each nationality, or what they think “the EU can be useful for” (i.e. how they can leverage the EU structures to defend or advance their interests). The breakdown by nationality is also useful to understand the likely level of influence that each of them will exert on the policies coming out of key committees. For instance, Dutch, Swedish and Finnish MEPs are significantly over-represented (compared to the proportion of their MEPs) in the Committee on Environment, Health, and Food Safety. Conversely, Central-Eastern European MEPs are most interested in shaping the EU agenda in matters regarding security and defence. 

9) Balance of power in EC top management shows geographical divides

Here, we looked at the composition of the upper ranks of the European Commission just before the expected reshuffle of the senior management of the Commission (Directors-General, Deputy Directors-General and Directors). It is these civil servants who prepare all reports and legislative files, hence most of the time they know the technicalities much better than the Commissioners themselves, as well as their likely practical implications. This analysis identifies the main trends in the concentration of power among geographical areas. We found that a discrepancy between the pre- and post-2004 Member States still lingers with CEE nationals continuing to be underrepresented in the Commission’s higher management. 

10) Winners/losers in EU decision making: climate-trade link, enlargement, chromium, migrants, Thomas Cook, Algeria churches

This was the most successful instance of our series: Winners and losers in EU decision making. These reports are published after the plenary sessions of the European Parliament and provide you with the most important takeaways from the voting behaviour of MEPs. The purpose is to understand the mindset and the priorities of elected officials. This edition of our plenary series shows that political coalitions are formed more on an issue-by-issue basis than ever before. For instance, the economically liberal forces suffered setbacks when they were outvoted on a proposal for a mandatory climate clause in all trade agreements. However, they succeeded in fending off some of the left-wing proposals, for example those which related to workers’ rights in the case of insolvent employers. 

Profile page of Czech Pirate MEP was the most popular one among VoteWatch users

VoteWatch Europe provides its users with both the macro and the micro picture of EU political developments. While our reports often deal with the macro-dynamics, our data on individual MEPs allows you to focus on specific cases. For instance, you can analyse the voting record of individual MEPs on all issues debated in the EP by looking at their profile pages on our website. 

Also in this case, we decided to find out which MEPs are the most followed by our users. VoteWatch users are most interested in the newcomers, in particular those belonging to new or rising parties. These MEPs are more enigmatic for EU affairs specialists, as they just joined the EP and stakeholders have yet to get to know them. This is further complicated by the fact that more than 60% of MEPs are new. In addition to the newcomers, high-profile MEPs are also under the close scrutiny of our users, for obvious reasons. For instance, this is the case of former PMs such as Italian Silvio Berlusconi or polarising leaders like Nigel Farage. 

Which MEPs are getting the most attention from our users? The top position is occupied by a rather interesting newcomer, the Czech Pirate Markéta Gregorová (Greens/EFA). This may come as a surprise as this MEP is only 27 years old and beginning her first legislative experience. The profile of this Czech MEP collected more than double the number of visualisations oNigel Farage, whose page used to be one of the most accessed ones before he left the EP. 

Also in the case of Germany, newcomers are scrutinized more closely than incumbents by VoteWatch users: the profile of the only member of Volt (Greens/EFA), Damian Boeselager, is the most viewed among German MEPs. Boeselager is followed by another newcomer which comes from a diametrically-opposed political faction: Maximilian Krah from Alternative for Germany (ID).

Likewise, French newcomers are under intense scrutiny, in particular with regards to those who played an important role during the campaign for EP elections. In fact, the co-leader of GUE/NGL, Manon Aubry from Melenchon’s France Insoumise tops the ranking of the most accessed profiles by our French users. Aubry is followed by Francois-Xavier Bellamy from Les Républicains (EPP). Both MEPs were the heads of the lists for their respective parties during the EP elections held last year.

Among our Italian users, high-profile names are currently getting the most attention. The most visited profile page among Italian MEPs is the one of Silvio Berlusconi. While Berlusconi is a newcomer in the European Parliament, the former Italian Prime Minister certainly needs no introduction. He is followed by another high-profile member of Forza Italia, former EP President Antonio Tajani.

Newcomers also top our ranking of the most visited profiles with regards to other large delegations. Mazaly Aguilar from Vox has the most popular profile among Spanish MEPs, while the profile page of Magdalena Adamowicz (EPP) was the most popular one among the Polish. Newcomer Romanian politicians are also getting particular attention, with Vlad-Marius Botoș (Save Romania Union) topping the ranking. Botoș was heavily involved in the Romanian presidential campaign in 2019, which might explain why Romanian users were particularly interested in his parliamentary activity in the EP.

Finally, it seems that right-wing nationalists from the Benelux are getting particular scrutiny: the profile of Derk Jan Eppink (Forum for Democracy – ECR) was the most visited profile of Dutch MEP, whereas Vlaams Belang’s Tom Vandendriessche tops the ranking for the Belgians.

Migration tops the list of most scrutinised votes in the EP

Last but not least, data on individual votes represents the fundamental feature of the intelligence ‘package’ provided by VoteWatch. VoteWatch users are able to access interactive visualisations of voting outcome, including breakdowns by political group, national delegation, as well as votes by individual MEPs. Our database already counts over 800 new votes in the EP since July, including votes on individual amendments and paragraphs. MEPs made decisions on topics ranging from defence to climate policy, from rule of law to financial regulation, from social policy to agriculture, and much more. 

In light of the significant amount of decisions already taken, we took a look to find out which individual votes got the most attention from our users. Unsurprisingly, the most accessed EP votes are not related to niche issues, such as chemical or financial regulation; instead, they focus on more hot-button topics which are easier to grasp for non-specialists. Their popularity also explains why MEPs invest comparably more time communicating on these topics.

Migration occupies the top position, as the most analysed vote is about the disputed resolution on whether (and to what extent) the EU should support search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. This resolution was rejected by only two votes (288 MEPs in favour vs. 290 MEPs against). For more information, check out our previous analysis on the vote

Perhaps more surprisingly, an apparently niche discussion on the situation of LGBTI persons in Uganda occupies the second spot. While the resolution obtained the support by an overwhelming majority of MEPs (82%), the few dissident voices (mainly belonging to right-wing groups) got a lot of attention from the media. 

The third most popular vote from the current term concerns the debate on the importance of remembrance for the future of Europe, which is linked to the notion of European identity and its relation with tragic historical developments in the 20th century. Similarly to the above case, this resolution was also supported by 82% of MEPs, while opposition came mostly from the left-wing members. 

Another important vote was about the decision to declare a climate emergency. Such initiative was backed by 64% of MEPs, but notably drew opposition from a plurality of EPP members. While this more symbolic vote managed to attract substantial attention, MEPs also made more concrete decisions on how they are planning to re-shape the EU economy under the European Green Deal (see, for instance, the example of stronger green conditionality in the EU budget).

The most important institutional vote of the current legislative term, the election of the new College of Commissioners, occupies the fifth spot. The interest in this vote was also increased by the fact that the first (secret) vote on the election of Ursula von der Leyen was very tight, as the new EC President was elected by only 9 votes. However, von der Leyen’s Commission managed to get stronger support in September (65% of MEPs) compared to the previous razor-thin vote. For more information, check out our takeaways from the vote

VoteWatch Europe is a leading intelligence source on EU policy-making. Our premium subscribers (such as EU public and private influencers, top universities, etc.), benefit from the most advanced analytical tools in EU politics. We also deliver tailored research, presentations or training on MEPs’ and governments’ likely positions and majority building in specific areas. If you are interested in a private service, send us an email ([email protected]) or give us a call (+32 2 318 11 88).