In the frames of this project, we gathered data on 19 roll-call votes concerning authoritarian regimes. Our primary focus was Russia and countries where Moscow has vested interests (e.g., Ukraine, Iran, Venezuela), but we also analyzed resolutions concerning China, Bolivia or Cuba. Based on the votes cast by MEPs, we created an index, the Counter-authoritarian Index (CAI) (working title), which is a score between 0 and 100. The higher the value of the index is, the more critical the given MEP is towards authoritarian regimes. 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 critically against authoritarian regimes in all cases (FOR in 18 cases, AGAINST in one case). Parliamentarians who voted the exact opposite way received a score of 0. Seven of the resolutions dealt (almost) exclusively with the Kremlin. We calculated a separate index for these only, using the same method. This is called the Kremlin-Critical Index (KCI).
The project investigated all MEPs who were members of the EP between 2 July 2019 and 1 August 2020. Our list includes a total of 783 MEPs, more than the current total of 705, as we created statistics for British MEPs and parliamentarians who took up their seat after the beginning of the 9th parliamentary cycle.
Calculating the index scores
In our database, we have information on all votes (FOR, AGAINST, ABSTAIN, DID NOT VOTE) of every MEP after he/she took his seat or before he/she left the Parliament. We made a decision in all cases on what counts as a vote ‘critical’ of authoritarian regimes or ‘supportive’ of authoritarian regimes. In 18 cases, the critical/supportive vote is FOR/AGAINST, and in one case (amendment rejecting the potential creation of a special committee on foreign electoral interference), it is AGAINST/FOR. Calculating the Index takes multiple steps. These are the following:
Using these datasets, we created rankings of MEPs, national delegations, national parties, and parliamentary groups to be able to draw up a picture of potential patterns of authoritarian influence not only in the EP, but the European Union as a whole. We paid closer attention to the seven countries in the focus of the project, namely, the V4, Austria, Romania and Bulgaria. On the infographics in the "Votes" section, the party and EP group affiliations of MEPs are registered as of 18 July 2019.
We must note that our current research focused solely on foreign policy-related issues. MEPs who do not agree with specific European foreign policy initiatives are not necessarily Eurosceptic or support authoritarian regimes; they can support decisions on other problems, just as representatives who support some EU foreign policy aims and condemn authoritarian regimes might disagree with European solutions on other issues. A representative ‘supporting’ authoritarian regimes and the Kremlin with his/her votes does not necessarily promote their agenda openly or that they entirely agree with the actions taken by these actors. However, we believe that these supportive votes are in line with the interests of autocratic third countries.
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.