The development of parliamentary representation in post-1990 Europe

Authored by: Heinrich Best , Elena Semenova

Routledge Handbook of European Politics

Print publication date:  January  2015
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415626750
eBook ISBN: 9781315755830
Adobe ISBN: 9781317628361


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The following chapter takes a synoptic look at the changes in the recruitment and careers of national political elites in Europe since 1990. In the context of The Routledge Handbook of European Politics, this focus on the national elite level is justified by the contractual nature of the European Union. National parliaments and governments still play a pivotal role in the ongoing process of European integration, which is fundamentally a ‘sequel and system of treaties’ (Best et al. 2012: 3). They also have the ultimate say with regard to who occupies top positions in EU institutions. The national level serves as the springboard for the careers of supranational elites in the multilevel system of European governance (Verzichelli and Edinger 2005). On the other hand, if European integration can be conceptualized as an elite process (Haller 2008), this raises the question of whether the structures of national political elites in different European countries are compatible, and to what extent the trajectories of their evolution are convergent or at least synchronized. The assumption here is that the process of institutional integration is fostered by the structural assimilation of national political elites; profound structural differences between European political elites would thus represent an impediment to European integration.

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