Top 100 most influential EU Parliamentarians

This report shows which EU Parliamentarians have been the most influential towards the end of the parliamentary term. The study also reveals which national groups have been punching above/below their weight when it comes to influencing European policies through the EP.  The assessment is based on the collection of all available information concerning the various actions of each MEP while exerting their mandate. MEPs’ scores are based on three main categories: direct shaping of Parliament’s reports, leadership roles  in parliamentary bodies (bureau, committees, etc) and strength of the person’s political network (positions within the group, party, access to government). 

Note: in this context, “influential” is a neutral term, it does not indicate in which direction the MEP has exerted influence when shaping the direction of EU policies, e.g. progressive vs. conservative or federalist vs. nationalist (to assess that part, we are developing different kind of analysis).

**In order to find out which MEPs/ political forces come closest to your views, check out our dedicated platform for the EU elections: YouVoteEU. Our tool allows you to vote on 25 key issues that have been voted on in the European Parliament and discover which MEPs voted in the same way as you did. If you are a media organization and want to embed our widget in your website, feel free to contact us by email! We can provide you with the code to embed the widget for free (the widget is also available in languages other than English: German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Romanian, Greek, Swedish, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Slovak). **

How should the results be read?

This is not an assessment of the best and the worst, or the good and the bad. The “good” and the “bad” it’s mostly a matter of perspective, depending on one’s political views and interests. “Influence”, however, it is a neutral term in this context, indicating the level of power that a MEP masters in order to get things done. The study does not tell whether he/she uses that power in line with the interests of a certain segment of the public (constituents) or a stakeholder group. For example, a MEP may be highly influential, but have different views than those promoted by a particular group of citizens (in which case he/she cannot be their champion). In this case, interestingly, that particular group would be better off is that MEP were less influential or active. Concurrently, a MEP may be portraying himself/herself as the champion of the interests of a particular citizens group, but, while he/she may be sharing the views of that group, he/she lacks the needed influence to get things done in the Parliament.

The level of influence of each MEP changes continuously, due to the high dynamics in the EP (such as positions reshuffle or rapporteurship appointments), national politics (e.g. parties in power change, Brexit) and visibility of a topic on the current political agenda (e.g. when migration is high on the agenda, the MEPs dealing with it receive a boost in influence, after which their influence decreases). It goes without saying that the EU elections are the biggest factor of distortion of MEPs’ influence, as many of them will lose their job, while others will take their place. However, we estimate that about 60% of the top 100 most influential MEPs are likely to be re-elected, whereas we estimate that only 40% of the incumbent MEPs will be re-elected to the next Parliament.  

If you are interested in discovering the names of the 751  likely members of the next European Parliament, feel free to send us an email to [email protected] 

Importantly, this is an overall assessment that measures dissipated influence. This means that if MEP X comes out as being overall more influential than MEP Y, this does not mean that X has more influential that Y on every single issue. On the contrary, MEP Y can hold substantial concentrated influence (more so than X) on a specific area or dossier (e.g. data protection), as political influence is highly dependent on the context and the timing in which decision-making is taking place.

In order to assess to what extent a MEP has been a champion of a cause or a citizens group, a more complex analysis is required, that would combine 1) the MEP’s true views (e.g. how he/she has voted on specific points of interest) and 2) his/her level of influence on that topic. If you are interested in that kind of analysis, feel free to contact us at [email protected]

**In order to find out which MEPs/ political forces come closest to your views, check out our dedicated platform for the EU elections: YouVoteEU. Our tool allows you to vote on 25 key issues that have been voted on in the European Parliament and discover which MEPs voted in the same way as you did. If you are a media organization and want to embed our widget in your website, feel free to contact us by email! We can provide you with the code to embed the widget for free (the widget is also available in languages other than English: German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Romanian, Greek, Swedish, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Slovak). **

The results

Who are the most influential MEPs overall?

Click here to find out the full list of the top 100 most influential EU Parliamentarians at the end of the 8th legislative term of the European Parliament. 

Below we are showing who are the top 15 most influential MEPs out of the total 751 at the end of the 2014-2019 parliamentary term.

The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani (EPP), is tapped to have exerted the most influence because of his key role as the head of the Parliament itself. The second and third most influential MEPs are the leader and spitzenkandidat of the EPP group, German Manfred Weber, and the chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Italian Roberto Gualtieri. Weber, who is currently the youngest group leader in the current Parliament as well as the youngest ever leader of the EPP group, is the favorite to become the next President of the European Commission. Gualtieri has the highest score on rapporteurship criteria since he has contributed in shaping more than 30 reports on economic policy between 2015 and 2019.

The chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Romanian Adina-Ioana Vălean (EPP), is ranked fourth in the influencers’ list. The fifth most influential MEP, German Udo Bullmann, is the chair of the socialist group (S&D) as well as a member of several Delegations of Euro-Latin American Parliamentary relations.

Austrian Othmar Karas (EPP) is number six, mainly thanks to his contribution in shaping a high number of reports on economic policy.  Spanish Eider Rubial Gardiazabal (S&D) occupies the seventh position in our list, thanks to her role in shaping a high number of reports on budgetary matters. Another Spanish Social Democrat, Inés Ayala Sender, political coordinator of S&D in the Committee on Budgetary Control, comes tenth.

Polish Danuta Maria Hübner (EPP), chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, is in eighth place. She is also a member of the Delegation for relations with the United States. The top 10 is closed by the Belgian Guy Verhofstadt (9th position), the vocal chair of the centrist group (ALDE) as well as the representative of the European Parliament for the Brexit negotiations.

Which MEPs saw an increase in their influence?

Some MEPs jumped to the top, others saw a decline in their clout over the past 2 years, since our previous assessment. This is due to the changes that took place in the interim, such as the reshuffle of key positions in the EP, as well as the assignment of new legislative reports. Keeping track of the performance of all MEPs is challenging, hence we decided to focus our attention on the fastest rising MEPs, namely the MEPs which obtained the largest increase in their influence recently.

Antonio Tajani: the former Vice-President of the European Parliament has maintained his power and visibility after his election to the helm of the legislative institution.

Roberto Gualtieri: the chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee has climbed from the 5th position in our previous ranking to the 3rd, due to his extensive contribution on parliamentarian reports.

Eider Rubial Gardiazabal: the member of the Committee on Budgets has risen two positions, from the 10th in 2017 to the 7th in 2019. She is one of the few candidates that has not been replaced in the Spanish socialist list for the European Elections.

Othmar Karas: the chair of the Delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee has jumped from the 11th position in 2017 to 5th in 2019. This change is explained mainly through the fact that he has contributed to the shaping of several parliamentary reports in economic matters.

However, not all changes in the positions of MEPs are the consequence of either gain or losses in influence, as their scores were also affected by the adjustments that were applied to the algorithm.

As mentioned in the methodology, this study is a snapshot of the state of affairs at the end of the legislative term. The dynamics of influence in the EU institutions will change dramatically after the elections, due to the reshuffling of key positions in the EP and the different balance of power between and within the European political families.

What are the trends by country?

If we look at the influence by EU Member State, the size of the country, or more concretely its population (translated into the number of MEPs), plays a key role.  For example, the Germans, as a the biggest national group in the EP, have been the most influential, followed by other big national groups such as the Italians, the French, the Spanish, the Polish, the Romanians, the Dutch, etc. (and, of course, with the special “footnote” in the case of the British).

As this was no big finding, we decided to take also another approach that would place the countries on an equal footing: by dividing the total amount of influence of a country to the number of MEPs it has, we get the “average influence per MEP”, which allows us to have comparable results among the countries. These results can be read as “which countries have punched above their weight and which below their weight”?

The answer is that Belgium, Czechia and Finland are at the top of  national groups punching above their (otherwise relatively small) weight. 

As one of the smallest but most densely populated European countries hosting the capital of the European Union, Belgium has to some extent a unique position in the EU. Its high average influence is given by the fact that several Belgian MEPs have occupied key positions in the European Parliament. Although Belgian MEPs are spread across different groups, most of them are part of the most influential centrist groups. Guy Verhofstadt (leader of the ALDE group), Kathleen Van Brempt (vice-chair of S&D), and Philippe Lamberts (co-chair of Greens/EFA), hold influential positions within their political groups, whereas Belgian MEPs have also been quite active in shaping legislation as rapporteurs (e.g. Bart Staes and Gerard Deprez).

Czech members got the second highest average influence per MEP in the European Parliament.  While a relatively small delegation, Czech influence comes mostly from the leadership roles of prominent Czech MEPs, such as Pavel Telička (Vice-President of the European Parliament), Pavel Svoboda (Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs), Petr Jezek (Chair of the Special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance), Pavel Poc (Vice-Chair of ENVI and political coordinator of S&D in the special PEST committee) and Jan Zahradil (President and spitzenkandidat of the ACRE party). Interestingly, Czech members scored the highest when it comes to influence (average per MEP) exerted through formal leadership positions in the European Parliament’s bodies (bureau, committees, groups, etc.), whereas they have been less prolific with regards to their legislative activities, ie. directly shaping reports (but still above the EP average). This trend of aiming to exert influence through holding formal leadership positions is observable among the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Conversely, the Nordics, for example, have a different tactics of shaping reports directly through legislative activity (rapporteurship). 

For example, the Finnish members scored the highest with regards to rapporteurship positions (proportional to the size of their delegation). Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA), Petri Savarmaa (EPP) and Sirpa Pietikainen (EPP) were among the most prolific MEPs in this respect. Finnish members were somewhat less successful when it came to gaining key leadership positions, although there are a few exceptions: Heidi Hautala is Vice-President of the European Parliament, whereas Petri Savarmaa is vice-chair of the Committee on Budgets.

From among the big national delegations, German members had the highest influence in the EP even when we control for the size of the delegation.  This means that the Germans manage to exert much more influence in the EP than countries with a size close to Germany, like France or the UK, for example.  Interestingly, the high level of influence of the Germans is given by the fact that they are able to secure and control leadership positions in the EP’s bodies, whereas the influence exerted through direct shaping of legislation (rapporteurship) is within the EP average. In particular, since German parties were often the largest within several political groups, German politicians had good chances of becoming the leaders of these groups. Two Germans were leading the two largest groups in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber (EPP) and Udo Bullmann (S&D). Far-left group GUE/NGL is also led by a German, Gabriele Zimmer, whereas Ska Keller is co-chair of the Greens/EFA group. The former EP president, until the mid-term, Martin Schulz, was also a German.

Under these circumstances, there is no surprise that the Secretary-General of the European Parliament, Klaus Welle (who is appointed by the MEPs) comes from the same country. His counterpart in the European Commission, the much more notorious Martin Selmayr, confirms the pattern, even though we are talking about a different EU institution (whose power distribution patterns are the object of a separate research that we are currently working on).

The level of influence of Italy has dropped several positions in comparison to our last assessment. Italians are currently neither punching above nor below their weight. Although Italians maintained important positions such as the presidency (MEP Tajani) and vice-presidency (MEP Castaldo) of the European Parliament, it lost  the leadership of the S&D group, due to the resignation of MEP Gianni Pittella in 2018, following his election to the Italian Senate. 

Despite the instability of the internal Spanish politics, the influence of Spanish MEPs has remained stable over the past few years.  Among the top 10 most influential MEPs, there are two  Spanish whose high scores stem from their prolific activities as rapporteurs. However, when taking all Spanish MEPs into account, Spain, just as Italy, is neither punching above, nor below its weight.

A similar finding regards Poland. Polish MEPs scored quite high with regards to leadership positions in the Parliament, whereas they engaged directly in shaping reports to a lesser extent than their colleagues. High-scoring Poles in our ranking usually held key positions, as in the case of the chair of AFCO, Danuta Maria Hubner, Jerzy Buzek (chair of ITRE and former EP President), Ryszard Antoni Legutko (co-chair of the ECR group), and Bogusław Liberadzki (Vice-President of the European Parliament). 

From among the big continental countries, France is the one that punches way below its weight in the EP (the picture is quite different in the Council and the Commission – those are the object of our separate research).  The victory of the National Front in the EP elections in 2014 was one of the main reasons that explains the low influence of France in the EP. Concretely, the victory of Le Pen (ENF) led to a decrease in the size of the French delegations in the most influential political groups. Conversely, the group founded by Marine Le Pen had a low level of influence in the European Parliament, since their proposals faced the rejection of the other political groups. For example, no single amendment proposed by the ENF was approved by the EP’s plenary! Additionally, no member of the ENF group was provided with leadership positions in the European Parliament. After the upcoming elections, the influence of France in the EU Parliament may increase depending on how Macron will play his cards.

Likewise, UKIP victory in 2014 undermined substantially British influence in the European Parliament. Also, the lack of British parties within the influential EPP, as well as the small British representation within ALDE, further explains the low average level of influence of the Brits. After the Brexit referendum in 2016, the UK has been further losing influence, and the British lost some of their leadership positions, such as the chair of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, which had been held by British members for several legislative terms. 

As in our previous update, Greek MEPs score the worst in terms of average influence, punching way below their weight. This is explained mainly through the fact that the Hellenic country does not have a big number of MEPs within the most influential groups and several Greek members are not attached to any political group. This translated into less influential positions inside the EU Parliament, both in legislative and leadership terms. Interestingly, the situation is quite opposite in the European Commission, where Greeks are over-represented (as shown by our preliminary findings in a separate research). 


Why are we doing this?

The information regarding who is influential, how influential they are, and on which EU policies is fundamental to the public, who needs to be aware of the personalities that shape the laws that affect half a billion citizens. Political institutions, in this case, European institutions specifically, take responsibility for their decisions and their implementation. Between 2013 and 2019, more than 70 new parties and political alliances emerged in EU Member States, some of which campaigned successfully and are likely to have a seat in the EU Parliament.

Therefore, in order to strengthen the democratic processes, the citizens also need to know which politicians within the institutions have played a bigger role in shaping the policy of the EU. This is especially the case for the EU’s institutions, whose complexity have led many citizens to feel disengaged with the political system, in the relative absence of (locally-known) human faces that they can easily associate decisions with.

Equally important, many MEPs have pointed out that they find it very difficult to communicate to their own citizens the importance of the work that they do in Brussels and Strasbourg. For this reason, MEPs argue that their contributions are not fully recognized by the local/national public arenas, hence their own leverage in the debates “at home” is sometimes disproportionately small compared to that of local and national politicians. Our initiative also aims to provide the public with a tool to get to know the work of the MEPs better, the areas they are active in, and the level of influence they exert (other reports done by VoteWatch also show the actual views of the MEPs on several subjects).

As the 2019 European Parliament elections get closer, this updated assessment contributes not only to increase the visibility of the activities of MEPs, but also to feed into the general debate on European decision-making. Our assessment is based on concrete facts (activities undertaken) combined with qualitative insights. Notably, the development of an algorithm requires a careful weighting of many criteria, which is a tremendous operation inherently vulnerable to subjectivity, as different people have different views as to which position is more important, or which legislative dossier carry the biggest weight. Nevertheless, this problem was mainly solved by asking a group of specialists to contribute to this task:  by increasing the number of evaluators, the impact of personal biases has been marginalized.

We tried to include as many (reasonable) suggestions as possible in the last updated version of our influence assessment and we warmly invite our readers to keep providing us with their valuable feedback.

How was the algorithm built?

Our initial survey was answered by 234 respondents, out of whom 42% are interacting with MEPs on a daily basis, whereas 24% of respondents do the same on a weekly basis.

A relative majority of answers came from people working in the EU institutions (42%), while the rest of the contributors work in the private sector (17%), academia and think tanks (13%), NGOs (9%) and others.

Those surveyed pointed out some interesting elements, such as the different importance of Committees in the EP, for example chairing ECON or ENVI is deemed to be more important than chairing CULT or DEVE (we have granted different weight to the committees). Also the low or no relevance of some criteria was noticed by the respondents, such as the number of questions asked to the Commission. In fact, according to some respondents, the quality of the questions is more important than the number, as asking “hundreds of silly questions cannot be compared to more tailored and well-thought requests”. At the end, we have decided to exclude Parliamentary questions from the set of criteria.

According to the respondents, important offices held in the past do not play such an important role when shaping policies in the European Parliament. In fact, being a former Commissioner, Minister or even former President of the European Parliament was deemed to be less important than being the current coordinator of a political group in a Committee. Indeed, both political coordinators and Committee chairs were deemed to be highly influential. Instead, among the different positions in the EP, chairs and deputy chairs of EP interparliamentary delegations are among the least influential.

Rapporteurship-wise, the higher importance of the reports under the Ordinary Legislative Procedure (previously known as co-decision) is shown by the higher score assigned to the shadow rapporteurs on these files than the ones to the lead rapporteurs of other types of files. However, as the comments pointed out, the shadow rapporteurs are not created equal, as the members of the two largest groups, EPP and S&D, are more influential than the others due to sheer numbers behind them.

Some suggestions from our respondents could not be fed into the algorithm, mainly because certain factors are difficult to quantify (such as measuring the in-depth knowledge by the MEP of a certain topic). The suggestion to include the number of languages spoken by MEPs as a crucial factor for assessing their influence was raised by a few respondents. We acknowledge that this is the case, but unfortunately, this is hard to measure accurately (unless language tests are applied to all MEPs).

The participants also mentioned several individual MEPs as deserving extra points for their achievements or for their “behind the scene” influence (ie. influence not highlighted by the numbers but felt in interactions). For this reason, we have created a category called “EP insights”, which considers the qualitative assessment of MEPs by insiders.

Political groups-wise, some respondents pointed out at the dominance of the two largest political groups in the Parliament, EPP and S&D. Indeed, this dominance is taken into account in our algorithm, as, for instance, shadow rapporteurs from these groups are being granted extra points vis-à-vis the shadow rapporteurs of the other political groups.

MEPs who are performing well in terms of participation in votes and being on the winning side in votes within their own political group, and within the EP plenary, have also received influence points, according to clear thresholds. Lastly, upon suggestions from the public, we have also assigned influence points to those MEPs whose parties control the government in their own Member State (both senior and junior coalition partners).

What has changed about the algorithm? Upon suggestions from the public, we added the quaestors to the list of key positions considered for the algorithm. The scores assigned to the Vice-Presidents of the EP, as well as the leaders of the political groups, have also been increased.

In our first assessment, we also assigned additional points to the rapporteurs on files that were deemed to be particularly important by the respondents to our survey. In this case, we decided not to arbitrarily classify some of the most recent reports as deserving additional points. For this reason, bonus points for special reports have not been included in this updated version of our assessment.

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