Edited by Henrik Enderlein, Sonja Wälti and Michael Zürn
Chapter 14: Party Politics in the European Union
Simon Hix 14.1 INTRODUCTION Politics in the European Union (EU) is party politics. Elected officials at the national as well as European levels invariably owe their positions and their future political careers to the political party to which they belong. National government ministers, Commissioners, national members of parliament (MPs) and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have reached the top of politics in Europe because they have managed to rise within the ranks of their political parties. As a result, political parties play a far more central role in political life at all levels of government in Europe than in some other multi-level systems, such as the USA. So, to understand how the EU works, one needs to understand how parties work in Europe’s multi-level political system (Hix and Lord 1997). On the one hand, a multi-level polity, such as the EU, is a challenging environment for political parties. The allocation of power to different levels of government in a multilevel polity can lead to tensions inside parties. For example, office holders at different levels of government from the same party can have different policy objectives. Also, in a multi-level system of government there are usually multiple electoral arenas – at the central level and in each of the lower units, and each electoral arena will invariably have a different set of voters, with heterogeneous policy preferences. As a result, candidates for election from the same party will have incentives to take up different policy positions in each arena, to tailor...
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