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See detailThe Power of Nuisance. The European Parliament's Gain in Power in the Area of Community Social Policy, 1952-1979
Roos Geb. Herzog, Mechthild UL

Doctoral thesis (2018)

The European Parliament (EP) today has significant powers in the EU legislation process. Yet, it was not intended to be more than a consultative assembly at the founding of the European Communities in the ... [more ▼]

The European Parliament (EP) today has significant powers in the EU legislation process. Yet, it was not intended to be more than a consultative assembly at the founding of the European Communities in the 1950s. This thesis argues that the EP’s gain in power cannot be fully understood without an examination of its first two and a half decades of operation, prior to direct elections. Long before the Parliament was assigned formal powers, Members of the EP (MEPs) succeeded in gaining influence on Community policy-making through a supranational activism driven by ideas of ever closer integration. This thesis demonstrates how the EP swiftly outgrew the role of an ineffectual ‘talking shop’ and developed noteworthy – though mostly informal – parliamentary powers already prior to its first direct elections in 1979. EP activism was facilitated by the growing willingness of the other Community institutions and member state governments to accept the EP’s increasing involvement, and a range of exogenous developments such as crises, providing fertile ground for the MEPs’ endeavour to empower their institution. This thesis demonstrates that the EP’s gain in formal power from the late 1970s and 1980s was the result, not the beginning, of institutionalisation processes within the EP leading to increasing parliamentary influence. This thesis is based on a corpus of ca. 4,000 EP documents from the period 1952-1979 (such as resolutions, reports, parliamentary questions and minutes of debates), and on 25 semi- structured interviews with former MEPs and EP staff members. It analyses through a historical- sociological institutionalist approach the ideational, sociological and institutional factors that induced MEPs – delegates from the national parliaments at the time – to invest considerable time and effort into an institution which promised no significant political impact, no career advancement, and no acknowledgement by voters. This thesis studies the EP’s institutional evolution through the lens of Community social policy – a policy area regarding which Treaty provisions were limited and Community competences very narrow. Even though this area was handled by national governments rather as a byproduct in the establishment of the Common Market, it developed into fertile ground for the MEPs’ ideas-driven activism, and provided the delegates with ample opportunities to develop and institutionalise procedures of parliamentary involvement in Community policy-making. This thesis shows that the European Parliament, prior to its first direct elections, must not be thought of as the institution described in the Communities’ founding Treaties. Instead, whilst largely operating within its Treaty-assigned remit, the pre-1979 EP should rather be considered the sum of the actions of its members. This thesis provides an in-depth study of the institutionalisation processes which resulted from the delegates’ activism, both constrained and enabled by established rules and procedures, and of the endogenous and exogenous factors in the EP’s environment which influenced these institutionalisation processes. This thesis also offers a detailed analysis of the ideas, logics of appropriateness and aspects of socialisation influencing the MEPs’ behaviour in the area of social policy. Even though the shaping of the EP’s powers was obviously not in the hands of MEPs alone, this dissertation reveals that the MEPs’ pursuit of more European integration was the main driving factor behind the EP’s gradual empowerment prior to 1979. [less ▲]

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