VoteWatch Analytical Tool: Uncover which MEPs can help you advance your agenda. Part 3: Defence Policy

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 defence 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, trade, 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's 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 see the position of each MEP on EU defence policy (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 defence agenda. On the contrary, the more an MEP is to the left of this chart, the more sceptical an MEP is to increasing EU's defence capabilities. The positions of MEPs are assessed based on their voting behavior in the European Parliament when deciding on several different topics related to EU Defence (e.g. European Defence Fund, Capacity Building in support of Security and Development, European Peace Facility). This is an objective assessment based on actual behavior rather than mere speeches or statements.  The level of influence (as of August 2020) of each MEP is displayed on the vertical axis: the higher an MEP is placed on that axis, the greater the influence that MEP exerts over policy decisions concerning EU defence .

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 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.

Generally speaking, EPP and Renew Europe show by far the greatest support for the EU Defence Union, whereas, in contrast, GUE-NGL and the Greens/EFA are the least supportive. Contrary to their more usual internal fragmentation in other policy domains, the EPP and Renew Europe are among the most united groupings, as Merkel's CDU and Macron's LREM are rallying support for deeper defence integration. Only a few EPP MEPs take a radically different stance from their fellow party members. On the other hand, the S&D and ECR find themselves in a middle position and both display a very high internal diversity. While the S&D presents a relatively strong cohesion in some policy areas, foreign and defence policy is among the main points of contention within this political faction. ECR and ID groups tend to be critical (to different degrees) of EU defence integration efforts, especially initiatives such as the European Defence Fund. Yet, they reject left-wing criticism of the "militarisation" of EU foreign policy and are less critical of initiatives such as the European Peace Facility.


The second chart focuses only on the MEPs who are members of the main relevant committee, ie. the positions of all MEPs belonging to the EP’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE). 


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 pushing for the European integration of defence initiatives 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 defence (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 the MEPs’ support and influence on defence policy in general. However, MEPs and national parties have nuanced views on specific aspects of defence matters. For instance, ECR is keen on supporting the defence industry, but is more reluctant to engage the EU in systematic defence cooperation, stating that defence should remain Member State's exclusive competence. 

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, i.e. 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” – i. e. maintain the support of politicians that share your views (especially those that you may easily lose) and reach out to the ones in the middle to build majorities.


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 increased funding of EU defence initiatives such as the European Defence Fund. The dots are now coloured in green (MEPs who voted in favour), red (MEP voted against) and yellow (MEP abstained).

As the tool predicted, generally speaking, MEPs who are reluctant towards EU Defence (on the left of the chart) rejected the proposal, while MEPs who favour greater coordination of EU defence initiatives (on the right of the chart) supported the proposed increased funding. The battleground was the MEPs in the middle, where the pro EU defence campaign managed to capture more moderated MEPs than the other side, which also explains the final outcome (rejection of the proposal).

The opponents of the initiative, concentrated on the left side of the majority line (among left-wing groups), did not manage to convince enough middle-ground MEPs to ensure the rejection of the proposal they were opposing. This is, once again, a striking example of the crucial role that the kingmakers play in the majority-building of each initiative.


Who are the key MEPs? 

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