Human rights or security? Positions on asylum in European Parliament speeches

Snorre Sylvester Frid-Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This study examines speeches in the European Parliament relating to asylum. Conceptually, it tests hypotheses concerning the relation between national parties and Members of European Parliament (MEPs). The computer-based content analysis method Wordfish is used to examine 876 speeches from 2004-2014, scaling MEPs along a unidimensional policy space. Debates on asylum predominantly concern positions for or against European Union (EU) security measures. Surprisingly, national party preferences for EU integration were not the dominant factor. The strongest predictors of MEPs' positions are their national parties’ general ‘right-left’ preferences, and duration of EU membership. Generally, MEPs from Central and Eastern Europe and the European People's Party take up pro-security stances. Wordfish was effective and valid, confirming the relevance of automated content analysis for studying the EU.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Union Politics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)344-362
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Asylum
  • Automated content analysis
  • European Parliament
  • European Union enlargement
  • Legislative speeches

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