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

Tapio Raunio, Wolfgang Wagner

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Parliamentary votes on foreign and security policy have often been demonstrations of patriotism and unity. This resonates 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 (EP) a particularly interesting laboratory for subjecting this thesis to empirical scrutiny. Analyzing roll-call votes from 1979 to 2014, this article shows that group cohesion and coalition patterns are no different in external relations votes than in other issue areas. Members of the EP (MEPs) do not rally around a European Union 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
Pages (from-to)547-564
Number of pages18
JournalForeign Policy Analysis
Issue number4
Early online date22 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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


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