A ‘Stronger EU’ is at the heart of Ursula von der Leyen’s political ambition for the EU’s external relations. She strives to lead a ‘geopolitical Commission’ which directly impacts decisions around foreign agreements, trade deals and development aid.

As tensions with key international players intensify, the EU must take tough decisions on sensitive matters about its role in the world. The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) is critical in this regard.

The analysis uses data and insights from the one-year period up to August 2020. There have since been some changes in European parliamentary seats and leadership positions.

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OVERALL INFLUENCE
POLITICAL INFLUENCE
SOCIAL INFLUENCE

In a highly competitive policy area with equally high stakes, influence comes from extensive networks and high expertise, expertise that often comes through seniority. Experience counts, with no first-term Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) making it to the top five. The top five MEPs for combined social and political influence previously served as Ministers in their national governments or have served more than one European parliamentary term.

Th Index suggests foreign policy is still a man’s game in Brussels, with female MEPs taking only three of the top ten spots for overall influence, though this may reflect a wider issue of female underrepresentation in the European Parliament.

INFLUENCE BY COUNTRY

On average, the Baltic and Polish MEPs punch above their weight in this area. When we look at political influence exclusively, the three Baltic states rank in the top five countries for average influence. These national groups share similar geopolitical leanings and therefore boost each other’s influence. German MEPs also feature prominently in the upper rankings of the Index.

The Baltic states score low when it comes to average influence on social media platforms, with Slovenian parliamentarians coming out top for influence on the external relations debate on social media.

OVERALL

POLITICAL

SOCIAL

INFLUENCE BY POLITICAL GROUP

Members of EPP and Renew Europe have the most power to change legislation, win votes and shape debates on the EU’s external policy in the European Parliament. However, those belonging to smaller, left-leaning groups excel when it comes to shaping the debate on social media platforms. Foreign affairs is a policy area shaped by national governments and affiliations with larger political groups, whose member parties are often in power at national level.

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