By looking at the voting behaviour within the EP, he found empirical evidence that the traditional consensual way of doing politics (where the EPP and the S&D would more more less agree on an issue beforehand) slowly gives way to a more majoritarian style in the EP. Broken down to single issues and the fractions it appeared, that shifting coalitions would form the majority. Despite being the strongest group (not only in the EP but also in the EC and the council) the centre-right (EPP) is not able to dominate the decisions taken in the Parliament.
Interestingly, there is a growing left-right split which gives those parties lying between the EPP and S&D a pivotal role: by voting either with the conservatives or the social democrats they often provide the necessary votes for the majority.
He thus concludes that the European Parliament is becoming an ever more attractive democratic arena and, indeed, a well working parliament, which no doubt reflects the democratic discourse in Europe. In doing so, it provides a stark contrast to the closed-door decision making of the council, which structurally works more like a senate. He ended his presentation with the question on how to bridge the gap between public perception of democratic deficits and the improving performance of European Parliament? Tackling this question will be fundamental for the EP to gain public support.
In the following discussion, he argued for an election of the EC President out of a set of rivalling candidates, to provide a focal point to the decisions made in the EP, as direct elections are still to far off. (Co-written by Lutz Gude.)
Brief Comment from a Federalist Perspective
Simon Hix findings once more point out the need to politicise the European Parliament – not only in terms of the institutional frame but actual public political discussion. His idea to let the EP vote on rivalling Commission President candidates is the right step. The Young European Federalists have been demanding this reform for years. Next to that the parliament candidates should be freed from national boundaries. The EP should not only be a European but a transnational parliament. Thus, transnational lists should be introduced as proposed by MEP Andrew Duff. The idea behind those two proposals: To make the European citizens realise how important the European Parliament is, wee need them to get engaged in it.
Simon Hix explains his findings
In January already he explained his main findings during a different event.