European foreign policy and the European Parliament in the 1990s : an investigation into the role and voting behaviour of the European Parliament's political groups
This research aims to unravel whether joint policies and supranational solutions can be forged within the sui generis 'laboratory' of the European Parliament (EP). enabling a European collective identity to emerge rather than simply the sum of national sentiments, preferences and ambitions. In particular, it intends to ascertain whether vested national interests expressed by the various Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have been overcome within their respective political groups, on the way to becoming effective and cohesive parties at European level. In order to validate or refute the above hypothesis, foreign policy, traditionally regarded as a sacred domain and stronghold of the nation state, is taken as a yardstick. Whilst bearing in mind the EP's limited competence in this field, the question at the heart of the thesis is whether the European Parliament is likely to become a genuine international actor or whether it is likely to remain a forum for discussion, functioning as the 'voice of conscience' and 'dissent' of the Community and its member states. As such, the research explores the parliamentary dynamics behind the definition of a common position vis-a-vis two major events of the 1990s: the Gulf and the Yugoslav crises. A qualitative investigation into the role of the political groups combined with a quantitative analysis of MEP voting behaviour is carried out in order to assess the interactions within and between the political alignments of the polychromatic Europarliamentary spectrum with respect to the aforementioned cases. Whereas the political groups reached a level of internal cohesion vis-a-vis these crises, the views of the European Parliament appeared rather ambiguous due to intergroup divergences. It is the contention of this thesis that the political groups have come to constitute embryonic transnational political parties which are deemed to play an increasingly important role in the development of the European Parliament, in the evolution of party politics at European level as well as in the European Union's policy-making.