Staunton, July 21 – Members of the European Parliament tend to vote on issues concerning Russia on the basis of the positions of countries from which they come and represent rather than on that of the European political parties with which they are associated, according to new research by three St. Petersburg scholars.
The 38-page study, which is described as a working paper, is available at hse.ru/pubs/share/direct/document/182360598. Summaries of its key findings can be found at iq.hse.ru/news/186786109.html and newizv.ru/politics/2016-07-20/243199-otnoshenie-evrodeputatov-k-rossii-zavisit-ot-nacionalnosti-issledovanie.html.
Its authors, Anna Dekalchuk, Alexandra Khokhlova, and Dmitry Skugarevsky, base their conclusions on an examination of 117,000 issues raised in the European Parliament between 2003 and 2015, of which they write “a few more than a thousand” concerned Russia and what Europe’s attitude toward Russia should be.
In contrast to an earlier study by Italian scholar Stefano Bragiroli who said that party membership rather than nationality was the determining factor in voting, the three St. Petersburg scholars say that in fact the situation is just the reverse, something that may be obscured by the general hostility of the European Parliament toward Russia since the 2008 Georgian crisis.
They say that “the tonality of questions in large measure is defined by the nationality of the deputies and not by their membership in this or that ideological group in the parliament,” an indication, they suggest, that “for European parliamentarians, national interests are still above ideological ones.”
The study finds that deputies from the following countries were most likely to be negative in their questions about Russia – Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Belgium, Italy, Ireland and Slovakia – and that those likely to be positive about Russia were from Greece, France, Cyprus, Germany, Malta, Finland, Austria, Romania and Luxembourg.
Among the many interesting details the study reports is the nature of some of the issues European Parliamentary deputies have raised when it comes to Russia. One, it finds especially intriguing, is the following: “What does the European Commission intend to do in response to censorship on Russian TV of American comedy serials, ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘South Park’?”