What lies behind Catalan MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras’ loyalty to his political group?

Our analysis of striking voting behavior in the European Parliament continues. After the ‘unusual’ cases of Sirpa Pietikäinen and Claude Rolin, we now take a look at the positions taken by EU Parliamentarians whose voting choices diverge so little from the official lines of their political groups that it might raise some questions.

Indeed, as we previously pointed out, MEPs exist and vote beyond the political groups in which they seat. What shapes voting decisions cannot always be linked to collective factors, such as the political line of the groups or the making and unmaking of alliances. In fact, voting choices are also the logical consequences of individual factors, such as local and national identity, personal sensitivity or engagement to a cause.

This is the case of Greens/EFA MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras, member of the nationalist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party. Its national party belongs to the left-wing Greens/EFA because of its membership of the Free European Alliance (EFA), a European party encompassing nationalist, regionalist, and autonomist forces.

The Greens/EFA alliance is based on the chemistry between two actors: the Greens and the Autonomist forces. Despite their different focus of its component members, the Greens/EFA is one of the groups enjoying the highest cohesion among its members (as seen during the latest plenary). And MEP Terricabras is indeed a very loyal member of his political group (ranked 10th of all MEPs in term of loyalty, according to our statistics). But what are the (few) sources of disagreements between Josep-Maria Terricabras and his group? 

This report provides a mapping of the voting behaviour of MEP Terricabras, showing which are the issues that put the core political engagements of the Catalan MEP at odds with the positions taken by the Greens/EFA group.

This analysis is part of a series of reports that map the positions adopted by specific Members of the European Parliament (see our previous report on MEP Pietikäinen and MEP Rolin), national parties, and political groups (we already conducted an X-ray of the ALDE and S&D groups). VoteWatch will provide extensive research into the positions and work of EU Parliamentarians at an increasing frequency between now and the 2019 European elections.


Meet Professor Josep-Maria Terricabras from Catalonia

Experienced professor of philosophy, MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras is a specialist of contemporary thought. Before his election as MEP in 2014, he was a fellow researcher at the University of Münster, St John’s College, Cambridge, as well as the University of California, Berkeley. Born in Calella on the Catalonian coast, north of Barcelona, MEP Terricabras is a supporter of an independent Catalonia, recognized by the European Union. He is, for example, involved in the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a grass-roots organization seeking the recognition of Catalonia as a European state. His engagement in the left-leaning nationalist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party is but the political translation of his heartfelt cause.

His engagement for an independent Catalonia certainly brings MEP Terricabras to favor the perspective of linguistic and cultural minorities into his voting behavior. However, unlike MEPs opposing EU integration out of nationalist biases, Josep-Maria Terricabras is one of the most pro-European MEPs.

A staunch member of the Greens/EFA group, but also a Catalonian nationalist at heart

MEP Terricabras’ relationship with the Greens/EFA group can be summarized in a few key votes. Classical left wing issues such as support for environmental protection, renewable energy, social equality and redistribution of wealth do not see Terricabras swaying from his group. Additionally, both Terricabras and the Greens/EFA group supported controversial policies such as triggering the rule of law mechanism against Poland or the implementation of a mandatory scheme for the relocation of refugees. However, the views of MEP Terricabras diverge from the Greens’ ones on two distinct topics: fisheries and the protection of linguistic and cultural minorities.

PJvw81 Tarricabras Votes [draft9][05Dec2017]

Our data show that, MEP Terricabras is less likely to agree with his political group on fisheries issues (85% of agreement rate) than on other policy areas. MEP Terricabras hence opposed the Greens/EFA group when voting on some significant fishery decisions.  Whereas the Greens support restrictions to recreational fishing and to the use of certain techniques such as  pelagic trawls, Josep-Maria opposes stricter EU regulation on the matter. This is not surprising, as Catalonia is a Mediterranean coastal region, and fishery is an important issue for Terricabras’ own constituents. Moreover, the European bass is an important halieutic resource in the Mediterranean Sea, so this can explain MEP Terricabras’ reluctance to impose restricting measures.

PJvw81 Tarricabras Consensus [draft5][05Dec2017]

Terricabras also has disagreements with his political groups when it comes to the protection of linguistic and cultural minorities. A concrete example can be seen in MEP Terricabras’ decision not to oppose a call on Bosnia and Herzegovina to broadcast national media in all its official languages (Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian). Whereas the Greens are trying to protect the internal cohesion of the unstable Balkan country, MEP Terricabras is more concerned about the rights of the different linguistic communities of BiH. 

Terricabras is also less keen on defending the current status quo in Europe, in particular when certain regions secede from their countries. For instance, the Greens support freezing cooperation with Russia until the country respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine over Crimea, whereas the Catalan MEP has a more moderate position on the matter. As with the case of the Catalan Independence referendum, the Crimean referendum to join the Russian federation is not internationally recognized (for more information on the Catalan referendum, check our special report).

Through these votes, MEP Terricabras clearly exhibits his engagement for the independence of Catalonia, while remaining one of the most loyal MEPs on other issues.

As demonstrated before in the cases of MEPs Pietikäinen and Rolin, membership of political groups cannot fully explain the Parliamentarian’s views, nor can it fully predict the voting bahviour (as we regularly observe).  In this case, regional identity and political cause merged to shape an MEP’s behavior in the EP, though in a margin small enough that one could attribute the ebbing of MEP Terricabras’ loyalty to random factors. Our data confirmed the reason why MEP Terricabras does not always agree with his political group: pro-Catalan engagement

If you are interested to know more about the actual positions of MEP Terricabras or any of the other 750 EU Parliamentarians, or simply to find out who and how is shaping EU politics in general, contact us at [email protected].