Party politics or (supra-)national interest? External relations votes in the European Parliament

Tapio Raunio, Wolfgang Wagner

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


Parliamentary votes on foreign and security policy have often been demonstrations of patriotism and national unity. These resonate with the notion that external relations are exempted from party politics, or that politics stops at the water’s edge. Its supranational character makes the European Parliament a particularly interesting laboratory for subjecting this thesis to empirical scrutiny. Analyzing roll-call votes from 1979-2014, this paper shows that group cohesion and coalition patterns are no different in external relations votes than in other issue areas. MEPs do not rally around an EU flag, nor do MEPs vote as national blocs in votes on foreign and security policy, trade and development aid. Based on statistical analyses and interviews with parliamentary civil servants, it concludes that the EP stands out by having party politics dominate all business, including external relations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalForeign Policy Analysis
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020



  • External relations
  • European Parliament
  • voting
  • party groups
  • coalitions

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