This report is the second part of the new VoteWatch series showing you how to use our new analytical tool (which is explained in-depth here) in order to identify the kingmakers and swing-voters among MEPs (you can find our previous analysis on trade here). In this case, we are concentrating on EU decisions related to climate policy issues and we show how to forecast the outcome and build majorities that would support your priorities.
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Use this analytical tool to spot a) how influential MEPs are in a given policy area and b) in which direction each MEP is pulling EU legislation.
How do we measure this? We assess an MEP's influence based on a wide range of criteria suggested by experts, such as leadership positions, degree of involvement in the legislative process, political network, seniority, etc. For more information on how VoteWatch assesses the influence of MEPs, read our methodology here (for more information on the influence of MEPs on environmental policy, check our recent assessment). Separately, we look into the voting behavior of MEPs on key amendments to identify their priorities and the direction in which they work to shape 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 to use the new VoteWatch analytical tool
Measure the coalitions and majorities
This analytical tool provides an intuitive visualisation of the coalitions and majorities in the European Parliament on a given policy area or issue. Importantly, it highlights who remains to be brought on board in order to secure majorities.
Over the past few years, climate policy has reached the top of the EU agenda. The signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 has set the tone for the upcoming EU policy and is referred to as the political frame that the EU should implement. Yet, if almost all the countries agree on the overall objective, the speed and scope of climate initiatives may be questioned. The debate on the level of the targets (for instance on the reduction of GHG emissions or the phase-out of fossil fuels) is highly divisive, as is their binding nature. This is particularly visible in the Council, where the diversity of views on EU climate policy illustrates the large variety of economic and social situations across the EU, making it difficult to achieve a consensus from the negotiations on climate policy.
Most MEPs are willing to accelerate the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy, recently adopting the proposal to reduce GHG emissions by 60% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). This is in line with the observed rising influence of center-left wing groups on EP environmental decisions, which is the result of the gains of the Greens in the past elections and the French-driven left-ward shift of Renew Europe. Yet, the latest proposal was adopted by a narrow majority, as coalition-building in the EP usually takes place on an ad-hoc basis.
The following sections will help you find out who are the actual kingmakers who can swing the outcomes of key votes.
Example of coalition-making
How does this information look like in our new analytical tool?
Below you will see the position of each MEP on EU climate policy issues (each interactive dot holds the information about an MEP). The more an MEP is to the right of this chart, the more that MEP supports an ambitious EU policy in this area. On the contrary, the more an MEP is to the left of this chart, the more sceptical an MEP is towards the scope and speed of these initiatives. The level of influence of each is displayed on the vertical axis: the higher an MEP is placed on that axis, the greater the leverage that MEP exerts over EU climate policy decisions.
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.
This first chart shows the position of all MEPs (regardless of their committee membership).
Pay particular attention to the interactive dots that are positioned in the proximity of the majority line, as those are the MEPs who can 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.
When it comes to climate policy, we notice that the Greens/EFA, GUE-NGL as well as some non-attached members (NI), mostly belonging to the Italian Five Star Movement (M5S), are the most supportive of more ambitious decisions in this domain. This also confirms our observation that Italy’s M5S usually sides with the Greens/EFA and the far-left. The S&D group and the majority of Renew Europe also generally support a more ambitious EU climate policy, even if to a lesser extent, and although they are more divided on the issue. Unlike in the area of trade policy, Renew Europe group in particular displays a high diversity of views on climate policy decisions, with several national delegations being less supportive of a faster transition to a carbon-neutral economy compared to the rest of the group.
On the other hand, the EPP holds slightly more critical views. Yet, the core of the group remains close to the median point, whereas a few EPP members are on the other side, aligned with REG. The most unsupportive groups are thus ECR and IDG, which tend to be sceptical about the order of priorities set by European Green Deal.________________________________________________________________
As in the first part of our series, the second chart focuses only on the MEPs who are members of the main relevant committee. Thus, the positions of all MEPs belonging to the EP’s Committee on Environment (ENVI).
The third graph below is an example of the positions of MEPs on a specific issue, namely the 55% GHG emissions reduction target by 2030 - as compared to a lower target (we chose this vote since it refers to the current proposal by the Commission). This graph is equivalent to the first one; the only difference is the colour of the dots, which no longer represents the membership of MEPs to their EP groups but their position on the above-mentioned question.
A look at a concrete vote confirms the observations made above. In this case, we observe that the winning coalition (57%) gathered the left-wing parties (GUE/NGL, S&D, Greens), with the notable addition of most of the MEPs from Renew Europe. The latter played a pivotal role in the building of this coalition, leaving on the other side only the majority of EPP, ECR, and ID. Hence, the supporters of this target managed to convince some MEPs close to the median position, on both sides of the majority line, which was necessary for the initiative to succeed, since the rest of the Parliament stuck to their general opinions on climate policy.
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 nuanced views on climate policy will generally be more receptive to new information as they probably have not yet decided what to do. Conversely, MEPs that hold strongly crystallized views on climate policy (i.e. 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 MEPs’ support and influence on climate policy in general. 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 and reach out to the kingmakers and swing-voters to build majorities. If you are pursuing an agenda that aims to design a more ambitious EU climate policy (such as setting binding targets on emissions reduction), you should maintain the flank to the right of the majority line and reach out to the MEPs close to the median (on both sides of the majority line). If, on the other hand, you’re in a position from which you need to defend a more flexible approach regarding environmental policy, you need to maintain the flank to the left and aim to secure MEPs from around the majority line.
Who are the key MEPs ?
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