New VoteWatch Analytical Tool: Uncover which MEPs can help you advance your agenda. Part 1: International Trade

This report is part of the new VoteWatch series showing you how to build your strategy using our new analytical tool (which is explained in-depth here) and which allows you to quickly identify kingmakers and swing-voters among MEPs. This tool is already been used by key stakeholders active in EU policy-making. 

We show the positions of each MEP on key parts of the EU trade agenda and highlight which MEPs are convinced (on either side), and which remain to be brought on board to secure majorities.

Check out similar analyses on other policy areas (e.g. climate, taxation, etc.) here.

Use this analytical tool to spot:

a) how influential MEPs are in a given policy area

b) in which direction each MEP is pulling EU legislation.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________ Reminder on why to use the new VoteWatch analytical tool _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Because politicians do not form their opinions in a vacuum. MEPs need to collect information and expertise, especially on issues on which they do not have any professional experience. Consequently, MEPs welcome new information from stakeholders (be it political, public or private sector). Doru Peter Frantescu, CEO and co-founder of VoteWatch Europe, recently shared his insights on how stakeholders can work with MEPs in this John Harper Publishing new book – How to Work with the EU Institutions: A Practical Guide to Successful Public Affairs in the EU

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________ How does this information look like in our new analytical tool?
 

Above you will see the position of each MEP on trade policies (each interactive dot holds the information about an MEP). MEPs who are placed to the right of this chart support liberalisation of trade relations between the EU and third countries (a conclusion we reached after looking at their recent legislative behaviour in the EP). On the contrary, the more an MEP is placed to the left of this chart, the more that MEP supports protectionist measures. The level of influence of each MEP is displayed on the vertical axis: the higher an MEP is placed on that axis, the greater the influence this MEP exerts over the EU trade agenda.

This first chart shows the position of all MEPs (regardless of the committee they belong to). Pay particular attention to the interactive dots that are positioned in middle, and especially in the proximity of the majority line, because those are the MEPs who will decide to support or reject a proposal at the last moment (and in doing so, they hold the key to the fate of a proposal). You can filter the MEPs by country (use the drop-down menu on the left side) or by political group (click on the name of a political group). Roll over your mouse over each dot to learn more information.

Note: in the free version of this report we display limited information in the charts. To discover the names of the MEPs you need to log in with a premium account. If you don't have a premium account yet, please contact us at [email protected] to discuss the terms. 

In the case of international trade, the EPP, ECR and Renew Europe groups are generally supportive of free trade (and trust the European Commission to conduct trade negotiations on behalf of the member states). Also broadly speaking, a part of the S&D group joins the free-trade camp. However, this pattern does not always hold true when big interests are at stake and when a particular trade agreement may disproportionately impact a member state or a sector. On the other side of the story, trade liberalisation measures are generally opposed by the far-left and the far-right (GUE-NGL and ID) and the Greens/EFA. However, some Greens and ID members do support certain trade agreements. 

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This second chart filters out the MEPs that do not belong to the key committee, hence in this case you will only see the positions of the MEPs that are members of the EP's international trade committee (INTA).

 
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Identify the kingmakers and the swing-voters

Our analytical tool highlights which MEPs are the kingmakers and the swing voters when decisions are made: the swing-voters are in the area surrounding the majority line (the yellow area) while the kingmakers are in the area where influence (the blue area) overlaps with the swing-voters area. The MEPs that have more moderate views / are undecided whether regulating trade relations is a good idea will generally be more receptive to new information as they probably have not yet decided which amendments to support and how to vote. Conversely, MEPs that hold strongly crystallized views on international trade (ie. are either strongly supportive or strongly opposed) will arguably be less receptive to alternative views, as they have made up their mind long ago. 

Keep in mind that this matrix shows the MEPs’ support and influence on trade agreements in general. However, MEPs can have different views on certain sections of international trade such as agriculture, sustainability standards or impacts on EU jobs. For instance, the Italian party Partito Democratico expressed concerns regarding the insufficient binding mechanisms for enforcing sustainability standards in the EU-Vietnam FTA and the agreement’s potential negative effects on European jobs. 

Ideally, you would focus your efforts on the kingmakers or on the heads of national delegations (as they have a greater potential of influencing their compatriots) in order to make the best use of your resources. However, be aware that influence is not something static, but it evolves continuously, ie. certain MEPs become more influential as they gain more experience in the EP and in international affairs in general, or because their party comes to power in their country, etc.

Irrespective of your agenda, the strategy that you should pursue is “maintain and reach out” – ie. maintain the support of politicians that share your views (especially those that you may lose) and reach out to the kingmakers and swing-voters to build majorities. 

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Example of how our tool predicts and projects the positions of the MEPs when a key decision is made

 

The chart above shows the position of each MEP on a particular proposal, namely the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. The dots are now colored in green (MEPs who voted in favour), red (MEP votes against) and yellow (MEP abstained.)

As the tool predicted, generally speaking, MEPs who are supportive of trade liberalisation (on the right of the chart) voted to ratify the FTA, while MEPs who want further protectionism (on the left of the chart voted to postpone the ratification of the free trade agreement. The battleground were the MEPs in the middle, where the pro-free trade campaign managed to capture more moderated MEPs than the pro-regulation campaign, which also explains the final outcome (rejection of the proposal).

Below, another example of coalition-building on international trade issues, leading to a completely different outcome. Other examples are available upon request: EU-US trade, EU-Mercosur, environmental and human right clauses, due diligence, carbon border tax and much more! For more information, contact us at [email protected]

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Who are the key MEPs ? 

To continue reading this report and visualising the names of the MEPs in the trade policy matrix you need to log in with your premium account. If you don’t have a premium subscription with VoteWatch yet, contact us to discuss the terms. 

This analysis is part of VoteWatch Premium Service. To read the full analysis you need to log-in with a PREMIUM account. If you don't have one, contact us at  [email protected]

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