AbstractsPolitical Science

From Global Responsibility to National Sovereignty – The Politicisation of the Financial Transaction Tax in the European Parliament

by Saara Mattero

Institution: University of Helsinki
Year: 2015
Keywords: Yleinen valtio-oppi: Politiikan tutkimus
Record ID: 1141020
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/153969


The Financial Transaction Tax, or FTT, was supposed to alleviate the financial burden of the Member States, curb out-of-control high-frequency trading and force the wealthy bankers to take responsibility in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Instead, the tax was seen in many ways an infringement of national sovereignty and a sign of creeping federalisation; taking the powers of the European Union to areas outside its competencies and impeding heavily on the national financial markets. This thesis is interested in the Parliamentary discourse around the FTT and how the controversial topic was presented, contested and justified by the Members of the Parliament, the MEPs. What is the impact of the tension between national and supranational decision-making levels, political ideology and personal utility-maximising on the voting decisions of the representatives? Furthermore, attention should be paid not only in how the MEPs voted in the plenary but also how they framed the issue in the plenary speeches. The representatives retain a strong incentive to appeal to their constituencies to maintain voter satisfaction and ultimately, to become re-elected. The theoretical framework is drawn from research on European integration, politicisation, the political groups in the European Parliament and theories of rational choice institutionalism. The research is conducted as a case study with mixed methods: through quantitative analysis of the MEPs’ voting decisions to enlighten the national and supranational tensions and qualitative analysis of the MEPs’ plenary debate before and after the vote. The results confirm largely the assumptions rising from the theoretical literature: the voting results reveal the strong pressures arising from conflicting national interests against the integration-advancing proposal. Representatives from the FTT-opposing Member States are clearly restricted in their actions, whereas MEPs from supporting Member States are almost unison in their support across group borders. If the Member State does not have a strong opinion on the FTT, most Members vote according to group instructions. The analysis from the debate proves that no single definition of the FTT exists - instead the justifications and notions of the tax range from global solidarity to staunch defenders of national sovereignty. The themes arising from the plenary discourses can be divided under three politicisation frames: a normative one emphasising the role of the banking sector as the root of the financial crisis with suffering citizens, a functional frame with ‘rational’ economic arguments and an authoritarian frame over the power struggle between national and supranational level decision-making. In general, MEPs from the large groups adhere more to an economic normalisation narrative of regulated capitalism vs. neoliberalism, whereas the smaller political groups in the ends of the political spectrum are more ideologically orientated in their speeches. The merits of the thesis lie in depicting the different forms of narratives the…