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Towards Territorialization? Understanding Political Conflict in a Post-Crisis European Parliament

Martin Wirtz

To date, it is largely agreed among political scientists that conflict in the European Parliament (EP) evolves along ideological party-group lines. Nevertheless, three recent developments may alter this situation. First, a growing politicization of EU politics has taken place. Second, the so-called Euro-crisis has entailed an increased emphasis on national interests. Finally, the EP now possesses co-decision powers on the highly redistributive issue of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The question thus arises, whether a process of territorialization of conflict in the EP can be observed in the post-crisis era. Hence, the paper first theoretically discusses the general conditions for a territorialization of conflict in EU politics. It is argued that, next to the aforementioned politicization and cross-national distributional effects, certainty regarding the distributional effects of an issue is a necessary condition for territorialization: without such certainty, national party delegations in the EP can frame a policy issue in such a way that ideology and national interest seem to overlap, thereby avoiding a 'hard choice' between policy- and vote-seeking goals. In order to test this claim, the paper examines the press releases of national party delegations to the EP on the issues of so-called 'welfare tourism' and the 2013 Reform of the CAP by means of a Policy Frame Analysis. This methodological approach combines the systematic rigour of classic content analysis with high sensitivity for meaning, so that the resulting findings regarding actor alignments in the EP promise to be much more valid than, for instance, widely used roll-call analyses.

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