Why does the European Right accommodate backsliding states? An analysis of 24 European People’s Party votes (2011–2019)

Lise Esther Herman, Julian Hoerner, Joseph Lacey

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Over the last decade, the EU’s fundamental values have been under threat at the national level, in particular among several Central and Eastern European states that joined the EU since 2004. During this time, the European People’s Party (EPP) has been criticized for its unwillingness to vote for measures that would sanction the Hungarian Fidesz government, one of its members, in breach of key democratic principles since 2010. In this paper, we seek to understand how cohesive the EPP group has been on fundamental values-related votes, how the position of EPP MEPs on these issues has evolved over time, and what explains intra-EPP disagreement on whether to accommodate fundamental values violators within the EU. To address these questions, we analyse the votes of EPP MEPs across 24 resolutions on the protection of EU fundamental values between 2011 and 2019. Our findings reveal below-average EPP cohesion on these votes, and a sharp increase in the tendency of EPP MEPs to support these resolutions over time. A number of factors explain the disagreements we find. While the EPP’s desire to maintain Fidesz within its ranks is central, this explanation does not offer a comprehensive account of the group’s accommodative behaviour. In particular, we find that ideological factors as well as the strategic interests of national governments at the EU level are central to understanding the positions of EPP MEPs, as well as the evolution of these positions over time. These results further our understanding of the nature of the obstacles to EU sanctions in fundamental values abuse cases, and the role of partisanship in fuelling EU inaction especially.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169 - 187
JournalEuropean Political Science Review
Issue number2
Early online date18 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • European Parliament
  • centre-right parties
  • democratic backsliding
  • elite voting behaviour
  • fundamental values


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