An almost universal point of agreement in contemporary political science is that 'institutions matter'. But the governing institutions of the European Union are widely presumed to matter more than most. A commonplace assumption about the EU is that those working within European institutions are subject to a pervasive tendency to become socialized into progressively more pro-integration attitudes and behaviours. The assumption has been integral to many accounts of European integration, and is also central to how scholars study individual EU institutions. However, the theoretical and empirical adequacy of this assumption has never been properly investigated. A serious study of whether political actors in the EU do tend to 'go native' or not - and why - is long overdue. This study examines this question in the context of an increasingly important EU institution, the European Parliament. The book integrates new theoretical arguments with a substantial amount of original empirical research. It develops a coherent understanding, based on simple rationalist principles, of when and why institutional socialization is effective.
This theoretical argument explains the main empirical findings of the book. Drawing on several sources of evidence on MEPs' attitudes and behaviour, and deploying advanced empirical techniques, the empirical analysis shows the commonplace assumption about EU institutions to be false. European Parliamentarians do not become more pro-integration as they are socialized into the institution. The findings of the study generate some highly important conclusions. They indicate that institutional socialization of political elites should be given a much more limited and conditional role in understanding European integration than it is accorded in many accounts. They suggest that MEPs remain largely national politicians in their attitudes, loyalties, and much of their activities, and that traditional classifications of the European Parliament as a 'supra-national' institution are misleading. Finally, the study offers broader lessons about the circumstances in which institutions effectively socialize those working within them.