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Still a Stepping Stone? A Revised Analysis of MEPs’ Career Pathways

Elites
Representation
European Parliament
Paolo Marzi
Università degli Studi di Torino
Paolo Marzi
Università degli Studi di Torino
Luca Verzichelli
Università degli Studi di Siena

Abstract

It is now commonly assumed among scholars that the connection between citizens and the European political scenario is, to put it bluntly, rather weak. This, in turn, is mostly due to a series of interconnected elements, such as the perceived sense of inconsequentiality regarding the election itself, the lack of a European public sphere and the consequent substitution of the latter with national political considerations. This background has deep implications not just at the bottom-up level, mostly connected to the second-order theory, but also with respect to the top-down dimension, more specifically the relation concerning representatives and their own mandate. For many members of the European Parliament, indeed, their election in the EP is just seen as a stepping stone through which kickstart (or advance) a national political career. As shown by Scarrow’s work from Political Career Paths and the European Parliament, however, these MEPs are but one minoritarian faction within the legislature, with the majority of elected officials either looking at the EP as the starting point of a long-term career or, per contra, as the conclusion of their political experience. Notwithstanding this relevant insight, substantial lacks concerning this particular aspect of political behaviour do seem to endure. First of all, it should be noted how Scarrow’s paper only focused on a limited set of countries (United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy), thus representing only a relatively small portion of the Member States that, at the time, comprised the then EU15. Secondly, it should be noted how Political Career Paths and the European Parliament is now quite outdated and might need a revised analysis in order to confirm or refute the various assessments stated in the article. Surprisingly enough, however, there is scarce to absent literature with respect to this particular area of interest, with recent studies focusing on the role of notorious national politicians in European elections. Lastly, there is no specific comparison, with respect to Scarrow’s paper, on whether early resignation of MEPs to be elected at the (sub-)national level is significantly different with respect to the national arena. On those bases, the current study is aimed at providing a modernized investigation concerning the career paths within the EP over the years in light of the profound changes that have affected the supranational political environment, also taking into account how both Brexit and the renewed power balance among old and new parties will affect the 9th European Parliament. Through the analysis of an original dataset, the current study intends to examine whether MEPs’ careers can be still conceived in light of the aforementioned tripartition, the effective empirical confirmation (or refutation) of Scarrow’s assessments and the degree through which MEPs use the EP as a stepping stone in comparison with the national scenario.