Friday 24 June 2011

Where exactly are the Europarties?

The Europarties are supposed to be forums for political debate and participation in the EU - that's very much the theory, anyway. So during the Euro crisis (and particularly during today's summit), what have the Europarties been up to?

The Socialists and Democrats.

The S&D have been somewhat active. There was a conference recently in Barcelona that resulted in the "Barcelona Declaration" (designed to make Social Democrats electable to take power in the EU by 2014):

"In the "Barcelona Declaration", Socialists and Democrats say they will:

•WORK for fair and progressive financial recovery focused on job creation and the protection of the welfare state;
•PROMOTE inclusion and integration in the face of populism and xenophobia;
•BRING more representation into the democratic system through new ways of participation; and
•STRENGTHEN the EU based on solidarity and combating growing nationalisms and euroscepticism."

The Declaration itself (which you can read here [PDF] in French) pretty much says the same thing, but it pads it out to fill the page. Sadly it's all too vague to really mean anything - and this during a major economic crisis! Even though it's aimed at 2014, how can the second biggest political force have no ideas or strategy at this stage? That the PES's campaigns on the Financial Transaction Tax and on Eurobonds haven't even got a mention simply demonstrates that the PES's leadership can launch internet campaigns separate from the actual power structure in the party without any impact.

The S&D group has endorsed the European Trade Union's day of action in Luxembourg, and points to anternet campaign Change for Europe (I assume it's cross-party with the Greens). While there are a few noises about transaction taxes and shifting the taxation burden, it's not clear that this is leading anywhere other than a party-political endorsement of the Parliament's aim of some own resources (read: taxes) for the EU.

The S&D is, on the surface, in a difficult position as its member parties are engaged in different levels of austerity while its European leadership calls for less austerity and more investment. However, it's not a massive gap, as its member parties also want this too, at least in general. With the S&D* opposition pretty much across Europe, they should really be doing more to throw their political weight around - after all, they don't have enough voices in Council or the Commission, so surely they should want to create a more vocal public response if possible?

Of course, it's not quite that simple as there are divisions between the member parties and within them. But a greater effort to have a common platform is necessary, particularly if they want to be electable in the face of a European culture of austerity.

The PES has announced that it has collected the signatures of 1,000 elected MPs of their member parties for a transaction tax - why not try to make use of this to establish an effective pan-European position?

*The PES ("Party of European Socialists") is the actual party, but in the EP they're known at the S&D. Poor branding, but what can you do?

European People's Party.

The EPP is "in government" in the EU, with a big majority in the Commission and Council, and as the biggest party in the EP. It's been enjoying a period of huge electoral success and it hasn't needed a common programme, and it shows. The party seems to be obsessed with finishing their articles with a "note to the editor" about the EPP's dominance in whatever institution features.

I'm happy to be corrected, but it doesn't look like the EPP has done much in the way of stating policy decisions that haven't been an initative of the (EPP-run) Member States. The EPP acts as a pro-government party for whatever the Council or Commission puts in front of it, unless it was proposed by the S&D side or there's an EP interest against it.

Update: Reuniting Europe has a blogpost on the EPP summit before the European Council summit.

European Liberal Democrats. (Which are part of the ALDE Group).

I'm pretty sure this says it all:

"Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck MEP, President of the European Liberal Democrats re-iterated her views on the need for the European People's Party (EPP) to take a more pro-active approach towards developments in Greece, "the EPP needs to shoulder responsibility and help bring about relief to the Greek situation given that some of the main political actors in this scenario belong to its European political family"."

While the S&D may be more active, as the opposition, the onus is on them to be more active and creative than the incumbant party(ies) - and, in an ideal world, actually effective as an opposition. Reforming Europarty structures to make them more coherent could go a lot further than changing the EP electoral system. What's the point of having "more European" elections if the parties refuse to campaign publically on pan-European issues?

[I just quickly dashed off this post - feel free to bombard me with info on what the parties want to do or what the issues are with their internal structures].


  1. Here's another blog on the EPP Summit:

    Btw, you continue to confuse the relationship between Europarties and their respective parliamentary Groups. Europarties are horizontally engaged with ALL the main institutions, ie, European Council, Council of Ministers, Commission and, of course, Parliament. Thus, the ELDR Europarty is not part of ALDE, IT IS THE OTHER WAY AROUND. ALDE exists only in the Parliament (ELDR + others); the Liberal Commissioners are ELDR (not ALDE), the PMs are ELDR (not ALDE). The same holds for the PES Europarty: the S&D exist only in Parliament PES + others); the Socialist Commissioners are PES, the Socialist PMs are PES. For the EPP there is no such issue (it's EPP across the board) since it's not allied with anyone else in Parliament.

    Also, the Europarties - EPP, PES, ELDR, and so on - are the exclusive organizations that campaign for the European elections NOT their Groups (EPP Group, S&D, ALDE, etc.). The Groups in the EP are forbidden to campaign and cannot spend a single Euro from their budget for campaigning. According to the Lisbon Treaty, Europarties will have to put forward for the 2014 European elections their own candidate for President of the Commission. The Presidential candidate will, in fact, spearhead the campaign of their respective Europarty. Thus, in 2014 we will most likely see Presidential style (US style?) campaigning, coordinated by the Brussels' HQs of Europarties.

  2. Thanks.

    Yes, I tend to use the Group names and the Party names interchangably - I'll try to make it clearer in the future. On a pedantic note, though, surely the ELDR are part of ALDE since ALDE contains other MEPs apart from ELDR (therefore they join together)?

    I meant the Europarties should run the campaigns more, and it's their structure I'm questioning, and asking if they need reform, rather than the Groups themselves. I hope the next election will see presidential candidates and common policy platforms - maybe even talk of coalition preferences!

  3. The Party campaigns and then, after the elections, it will forms its parliamentary Group for 5 years; thus the Party should not be considered as part of it's Group since the Party is the actual political entity that forms the Group as such, not the other way around; see: