This project is about the effects of institutional design on decision-making in the European Union. Specifically: delegation to informal inter-institutional legislative bargaining (the 'informal arena'). I develop a spatial complete information model to explain the decision to delegate to the 'informal arena' and test its empirical implications. The meta-theoretical umbrella for this project is New Institutionalism (more specifically, Rational Choice Institutionalism) and I view the decision to delegate through a principal-agent lens, i.e., delegation may result in policy outcomes that differ from counterfactual non-delegated acts (agency-drift). I contribute to the theoretical and empirical literatures on informal law-making in the European Union and legislative organisation more generally.
In the EU, the ‘formal arena’ co-exists with the 'informal arena.' In the formal arena, bills shuttle back and forth between two chambers in a maximum of three reading stages. In the informal arena, inter-institutional negotiations are delegated. The delegations meet behind closed doors and the resulting compromise is rubber-stamped by the parent chambers. The extant literature suggests that law-making in the informal arena leads to agency-drift.
The questions that I address in this project are: when does delegation to the informal arena take place and, equally, when does delegation not take place? Furthermore, does delegation lead to agency-drift?
My findings suggest that delegation is less likely, the greater the risk of agency-drift and more likely the greater the legislative workload cost of not delegating. I show that the bicameral system alters the incentive structure of legislative actors such that agency-drift is rare or moderate if it occurs.
Data Innovation for International Development: An Overview of Natural Language Processing for Qualitative Data Analysis
with Anna Hanchar IEEE Proceedings of the 2017 International Conference on the Frontiers and Advances in Data Science (FADS), Xi'an, China, 2017. article
Availability, collection and access to quantitative data, as well as its limitations, often make qualitative data the resource upon which development programs heavily rely. Both traditional interview data and social media analysis can provide rich contextual information and are essential for research, appraisal, monitoring and evaluation. These data may be difficult to process and analyze both systematically and at scale. This, in turn, limits the ability of timely data driven decision-making which is essential in fast evolving complex social systems. In this paper, we discuss the potential of using natural language processing to systematize analysis of qualitative data, and to inform quick decision-making in the development context. We illustrate this with interview data generated in a format of micro-narratives for the UNDP Fragments of Impact project.
Power and Transparency in Political Negotiations
in European Union Politics article
This paper argues that transparency affects bargaining power in political negotiations. The more opaque actor has an advantage over the more transparent one. I test the effect of opacity on power using the case of the European Union. Its legislative system exhibited variation in the level of transparency of one legislative chamber - the European Parliament - but not the other - the Council of the European Union - in an otherwise similar legislative context. Variation in the level of transparency existed in the intervening period from 1999 to 2009 when it became possible to conclude informal negotiations early in the legislative process and stringent rules for conducting such informal negotiations did not yet exist. I exploit this variation and find a strong and robust link between opacity and power. Recognizing that link may enhance our understanding of how political institutions work and inform institutional design.
Estimating preferences of European Union legislators: A dynamic scaling model for comparable positions in the Council and the Parliament
I provide a novel method for estimating positions of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that are on the same scale as national party positions from the Chapel Hill Expert Surveys. The positions are dynamically estimated and, therefore, comparable over time. I generate left-right preference data for all individual MEPs as well as all member state governments in the Council for the period from 1994 to 2014. The data is well suited for testing theories of bicameral decision-making in the European Union. I scale roll-calls in the European Parliament using a Bayesian IRT model. The scale is anchored by exploiting national party positions from the expert surveys as bridge observations. Re-elected legislators are used as bridge observations across legislative terms. In addition, I include contextual information and estimates form a commonly used scaling model – NOMINATE – as covariates. The estimates have high face validity and the model generates sensible estimates even when the quality of the underlying roll-call data is low.
Twenty Years of Committee Organisation in the European Parliament: Ideology and Representativeness of the Standing Committees 1994 - 2014
I provide a comprehensive analysis of the committee system in the European Parliament from 1994 to 2014. Using novel preference data, I show that the committees are highly representative of the plenary. Further, I show that preference heterogeneity is similar across committees and more variation is present over time than across committees. Contrary to the distributional and party political theories of legislative organisation, ideology does not predict committee membership. It is previous membership – expertise – that is the most robust predictor of committee membership. I use original data on individual preferences of all members of Parliament combined with web scraped contextual information such as birthdates, nationalities, national party affiliations, European party group affiliations, and committee functions, i.e., chairmanships, vice-chairmanships, memberships, and substitute memberships. For each of the committee functions, I collected exact start and end dates and constructed committee membership over the twenty years period. I contribute to the literature on legislative organisation and provide evidence in favour of the informational theory of legislative organisation. The findings suggest that one should not expect biased policy from the Parliament’s committee system.
Individuals, Disaggregation of the State and Negotiation Tactics: Evidence from the European Union
with Nicola Chelotti
Why do states use certain negotiation tactics more than others? By arguing that the personal characteristics of individual negotiators help to explain political choices, this article contributes to the reinvigorated literature on individuals and International Relations. In particular, it takes issue with one of the most common challenges of this literature – how, given all the bureaucracies they are embedded in, individuals are able to shape political decisions. The article argues that one particular group of actors – diplomatic negotiators – have de facto acquired ultimate policy-making responsibilities, most prominently in the selection of tactics. The image of the negotiating state is thus re-conceptualized. Not only is the fiction of a hierarchical and vertically organized state rejected, evidence is presented of the opposite trend – what might be called the ‘partial individualization’ of the state. Next, by testing four individual characteristics (experience, autonomy, social and epistemic motivations) against an original database of 138 questionnaires completed by national officials in EU foreign policy, the article shows that these characteristics matter in explaining variation in the use of tactics, although this does not apply to all the negotiating activities. The article also reveals that the explanatory power of individual-level characteristics is limited under certain conditions.
Measures of public opinion on European integration are an increasingly important independent or dependent variable in many analyses of European politics, not least due to the progressing politicization of the EU. However, applied researchers typically use a single survey item as their measure of public opinion. This poses problems arising from discontinuations and interruptions of items in survey time-series as well as concerns about differential item functioning across countries, i.e. respondents from different contexts have different reference points from which they evaluate a question. We develop measures of opinion on European integration that are more comparable over time and across countries using group-level item-response theory models that recover yearly estimates of public opinion on integration in all EU member states on the following dimensions: (1) a utilitarian dimension; (2) an affective dimension; (3) an institutional dimension; (4) and an integration dimension. We select public opinion items from Eurobarometer surveys between 1974 and 2017, evaluate the face and predictive validity of our measures, discuss applications, and make the data available for academic use.
Strategic Rapporteur Selection in Informal Inter-Institutional EU-Negotiations
In informal interinstitutional decision making in the European Union, delegations from the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union meet behind closed doors to reach a compromise that is subsequently rubber stamped by the parent chambers. The literature on informal decision-making points to the risk of policy drift towards key figures. Both chambers should select the key negotiators strategically if the potential for agency drift exists. I test whether the Parliament selects its key negotiator, the rapporteur, strategically using new data on individual preferences of all members of Parliament, national and European party affiliations as well as committee memberships within Parliament. To identify the effect of informal negotiations on rapporteur selection, I exploit a rule change in 1999, where file conclusion using informal first reading agreements became possible for the first time. I estimate local average treatment effects using a regression discontinuity approach and provide evidence for strategic selection. The Parliament selects more centrist agents overall and more moderate party group members. Five-hundred placebo tests over a twenty-years period illustrate the robustness of the findings.
Measuring Political Influence: Agenda-Setting Power in the European Union
This research note is on the conceptualization of influence, to improve validity of its measurement and thereby our understanding of the legislative process. I discuss a current conceptualization used in innovative research on the power of the European Commission to shape policy, showing that theoretical contradictions may arise. I design a new measure that solves these issues by making the counterfactual expectation explicit and incorporating it into the measure. I replicate the research on the Commission's power and show (1) the Commission is, indeed, successful in seeing its preferences converted into policy, (2) contrary to the original piece, the Commission seems to possess genuine agenda setting power, (3) measurement matters as it shapes outcomes. This discussion may inform research on related work, such as the influence of lobby groups, parties, members of international organizations and more.
The European Union is an exceptionally complex political system; its bicameral legislative process in particular needs to overcome a potential plethora of veto-points. At the same time, the EU proves to be a productive negotiation "machine". This paper explores the factors that "oil" this machine; more specifically, we ask how the Union can adopt legislation in the face of an unfavourable ideological (left-right) preference constellation. We argue that actors will make generous concessions on the left-right dimension of political conflict 1) to uphold the overall system of supranational cooperation, 2) to capitalise on the reciprocity that this system affords, and 3) when they act under permissive consensus. The argument is tested on a new data set of codecision files that either amend or replace existing legislation (1999-2014 ). Given ideological divergence, two-thirds of these files—labelled "gridlocked"—should not have been adopted, because one of the veto-players should have preferred the status quo. Lending support to our argument, the analysis shows that homogenous elite-level preferences on continued cooperation and the possibility for issue-linkage can explain the adoption of such gridlocked legislation; however, the potential for compromise decreases as Euroscepticism rises. These findings contribute to established debates about bargaining under complexity and the dimensionality of the EU’s political space—and raise questions about the EU’s future ability to overcome gridlock under conditions of contestation.
Multilevel regression with post-stratification (MrP) has become a standard approach for small area estimation problems. After an initially largely positive reception in the literature, there are now also more critical contributions which show that MrP does not always perform optimally. One inherent problem is how to select the appropriate response model and specifically how to include the context-level information in an optimal fashion. We formulate this as a prediction problem and explore various simple approaches from the statistical learning literature as well as model averaging approaches. We show that a disciplined approach provides an improvement. The size of this improvement will depend on how well non-systematically specified models can perform.