More than 40% of the laws passed in the Spanish parliament since 1986 are fully or partially
defined in Brussels. During the economic crisis this percentage is between 60 and 70 per cent
of the total.
Parliamentary scrutiny activity on European affairs has not kept pace with the Europeanization
of the legislative agenda: only 11% of scrutiny questions refer to Europe.
More than 70% of the oral questions with a European content introduced by the regional
parties in Congress are aimed at giving visibility to the interests of their regions.
In the 2015 investiture debate in the Catalan Parliament, 7 out of 10 references to Europe are
related to the independence process.
Europeanization of legislative activity
One of our goals is to explain to what extent, as a result of the delegation of powers to the EU, it is the EU institutions that decide the content of the public policies implemented in Spain.
Which are the most Europeanised policies? Has the percentage of laws passed in the Spanish parliament and in the autonomous parliaments that are decided in Brussels increased? In
order to answer these questions, we have created databases on the European content of all legislative initiatives introduced at both state and autonomous (Catalonia) level, from 1986 to
the present day.
Accountability and democratic control
In a context where the EU increasingly defines the content of public policies, the lack of parliamentary control over EU-related matters may result in a weakening of accountability and democratic control mechanisms. If the delegation of competences upwards is accompanied, as in Spain, by a process of political decentralisation in favour of the regions, and if the regions do not have sufficient mechanisms for participation, the links connecting policy-makers with voters may also be weakened. Has the scrutiny activity of parliamentary groups on European issues increased at the same pace as the Europeanization of the legislative agenda? In what circumstances do regional parties prioritise the state or regional parliamentary arena for scrutiny of European policies and decisions? Do governments use secondary legislation to fulfil their EU commitments, avoiding the passage and discussion of certain issues in the parliamentary arena?
Europe and party competition
The impact of the Europeanization process on party competition has been analysed mainly at the electoral level and taking into account the parties' position on European integration as the
main explanatory variable. However, political competition does not only take place during elections but also throughout the legislature, in the parliamentary arena. Under what circumstances do European issues enter the agenda of parliamentary groups in countries such as Spain, where there are no Eurosceptic parties? Cases like Spain show that the process of
Europeanization imposes limits and restrictions on political actors, but also creates opportunities for them to achieve their goals. For example, parties can introduce control
questions on European issues in order to give visibility to issues that are of interest to them and that would otherwise go unnoticed in the political debate. They can use European framing
to legitimise their political strategies and decisions in relation to domestic issues, as demonstrated by the independence process in Catalonia. Parties can also use European issues
and the opportunities created by the multilevel governance system to pursue credit taking and blame shifting strategies. The study of this question is particularly interesting in southern
European countries where the crisis has transformed parties' incentives to put European issues on the agenda. Has conflict and control over European affairs increased in Spain in the wake of the economic crisis?
Media coverage of European affairs
The study of media coverage of European affairs is important because citizens obtain
information about the EU, its policies and institutions mainly through the media. Our aim is to
explain under what circumstances European affairs enter the media agenda, to what extent
the media influence citizens' perceptions of the EU and also their impact on the behaviour of
parliamentarians. Our analysis puts special emphasis on the impact of critical junctures, such
as the economic crisis, EU budget negotiations or EU enlargement processes, on the ability of
government elites, parties, trade unions, interest groups or social movements to put European
issues on the political agenda. The aim is to contribute to knowledge about the functioning of
the media but also to understand the conditions under which the visibility or politicisation of
EU-related issues increases.