In the frames of this project, we gathered data on over 90 roll-call votes concerning authoritarian regimes, including full resolutions, individual paragraphs and specific parts of paragraphs. We primarily focused on votes concerning five categories:
- resolutions criticizing the actions of the Chinese Communist Party,
- texts condemning the actions of the Kremlin,
- resolutions criticizing the actions of authoritarian regimes outside of Russia and China, and protecting EU values abroad,
- texts on disinformation, and
- reports concerning overarching EU foreign policy strategies and further European integration in foreign policy.
Based on the votes cast by MEPs, we created five corresponding indexes: the China-critical Index (CCI), Kremlin-critical Index (KCI), Counter-authoritarian Index (CI), Counter-disinformation Index (CDI), and the Common Foreign Policy Index (CFPI), respectively. The higher the value of the index is on a scale of 0 to 100, the less open the given MEP is towards cooperation with authoritarian regimes or cooperation with them. An MEP received a score of 100 only if he/she participated in all votes (after he/she became an MEP or when he/she was an MEP) and voted against authoritarian interests in all cases. Parliamentarians who voted the exact opposite way received a score of 0.
The project investigated all MEPs who were members of the EP between 2 July 2019 and 20 May 2021. Our list includes more than the current total of 705 MEPs, as we created statistics for British MEPs and parliamentarians who took up their seat after the beginning of the 9th parliamentary cycle, as well as representatives who have since left the institution..
Calculating the index scores
We analyzed 92 votes cast by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) between 2 July 2019 and May 2021. We categorized these votes into the following groups (see the number of votes included in each category in parentheses):
- Counter-authoritarian (35): votes condemning authoritarian practices in third countries outside of Russia and China, and efforts to uphold European values in these nations.
- Kremlin-critical (25): votes condemning the authoritarian practices of the Russian regime and its aggressive foreign policies.
- Common Foreign Policy (15): votes advocating for a more united and effective EU foreign policy and strategies vis-á-vis third countries.
- Counter-disinformation (7): votes advocating for stronger action in countering the information operations of third countries.
- China-critical (5): votes condemning the authoritarian practices of the Chinese regime and its aggressive foreign policies.
In each case, we categorized a resolution or report based on which of the Indexes the majority of its contents fit the best. For instance, reports on the implementation of EU foreign and security policy touch upon several topics (e.g., Russia, China, disinformation), but it mostly deals with making EU foreign policy more united and effective.
MEPs can vote in three different ways: they can vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ a proposal, or they can abstain. We also included instances when MEPs did not vote on a given proposal or when they were no longer/not yet representatives in the EP.
Categorizing the votes allows us to analyze how representatives, national parties, countries, and EP party families votes on resolutions, reports addressing similar issues; see whether they support or disapprove proposals. To help us better understand trends, we created indices from the results. Each category received a separate index, but all were constructed with the same methodology. Calculating the indices take the following steps:
- In each case, we decide what type of vote can be considered critical (because it supports proposals seeking to condemn the practices of authoritarian regimes, the fight against disinformation or stronger foreign policy integration, etc.) and what can be considered a vote that, in contrast, supports authoritarian regimes. In most cases, ‘for’ was the critical and ‘against’ was the supportive decision. However, in some cases, this was the other way around (generally in the case of amendments proposed by a far-right or far-left party). This does not affect abstentions or missed votes (‘did not vote’), they are evaluated the same in all cases.
- We aggregate the number of critical, supportive votes, abstentions and missed votes. The result is the number of potential votes. During the aggregation, we take into account what MEPs were active at the time of the vote, what national party and EP group they sat in at the time. We can ensure the accuracy of this by following all changes during the cycle.
- When calculating index scores, we assign a point value or weight to every single vote. Critical votes are worth one point, supportive ones are worth zero, missing a vote is assigned a value of 0.5, and abstentions are worth 0.25. In the case of missing a vote, we can rarely know the reason for it and how an MEP would have voted if they took part, so we positioned its value halfway between critical and supportive votes. At the same time, we believe that abstentions can rather be considered a weak supportive vote, so we weighed this halfway between a supportive vote and a missed vote.
- The actual score of a given level (individual MEP, national party, country, party family) is the weighed aggregate of the total number of votes, and the potential score is the highest score possible. This would be achieved if all votes are critical, worth one point. The actual value of the index is the quotient of the of the actual score and potential score in percentage points. (For instance: let’s say the number of potential votes is 10, and the votes cast are: 4 critical, 1 supportive, 3 abstentions, 2 missed votes. The actual score would thus be 4*1+1*0+3*0.25+2*0.5=5.75. Potential score is 10. The index value would thus be 5.75/10=0.575=57.5%).
- The higher the index score is, the more critical a voting pattern is in the given topic. An MEP or group would have an index score of 0% if they took part in all votes and voted supportively. It can be 100% if they took part in all votes and voted critically.
We changed the methodology we used compared to the one used in the previous phase of our project. Thus, this study contains the 19 votes we analyzed during the previous phase as well. Our previous results are not comparable with the ones included in this study.
We must also note that MEPs have the chance to correct their votes after the plenary session, indicating, for instance, that they intended to vote differently than they had done. However, this does not change the official results of the vote. Our indexes are calculated based on the official results; thus, the corrections are not represented in them.