Linking Domestic and European Politics: Finnish MEPs and the Votes that Shaped the 7th European Parliament

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details No.81, May 2014
Publication Date 09/05/2014
ISBN 978-951-769-414-8
ISSN 2242-0444
Content Type


The members of the European Parliament act in a challenging intermediary position between domestic and European politics. The MEPs represent national parties and are elected nationally. However, in the European Parliament, MEPs mostly work within transnational party groups, which form the main channel through which MEPs can influence European decision-making. The views of the MEPs’ national parties and their European party groups do not always overlap, forcing the MEPs to choose between the two.

Existing research suggests that in the majority of voting situations, MEPs vote in line with their European party groups. However, national parties have the means to turn their MEPs against the party group if their policy position is very far from that of the party group and if the issue in question is very salient to them.

The situation of the Finnish MEPs working in the 7th European Parliament (2009-2014) has been particularly interesting in this respect. The eurozone crisis has led to marked politicisation of EU issues in Finland. The salience of EU issues in domestic politics could be expected to provide a stronger incentive for the Finnish parties to control their MEPs and, conversely, for Finnish MEPs to pay attention to the domestic debate.

An analysis of the voting behaviour of the Finnish MEPs in 17 key votes supports the results of previous studies on MEP voting, suggesting that Finnish MEPs tend to vote in line with their party groups, particularly in votes on issues with little or no links to domestic politics. However, party group cohesion can break down if an issue is considered to be of high national salience and if the national party’s and the European party group’s positions differ markedly.

Somewhat surprisingly, none of the most visible EP votes in Finland during the 7th EP’s term had to do with the eurozone crisis. Instead, two of the most visible votes were the vote on the directive limiting the sulphur content of marine fuels and the vote on the working time of road transport personnel. The former clearly demonstrated that nationality can play a significant role in the EP if the issue in question is framed in national terms and is widely covered by the domestic media.

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