Factors for Integration? Transnational Party Cooperation in the European Parliament, 1952-79

Article excerpt

Political parties at the European level are important as a factor of integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens.

(Treaty on European Union, Article 138a)

In current analysis of the European Union (EU), it is an accepted fact that relationships between European nation states have been transformed, thereby effecting considerable and deep-seated changes to international trade, foreign policy and aspects of global governance norms. Economic boundaries are increasingly fluid and the domestic impact of processes of Europeanisation is the subject of major studies. The EU and its constituent and earlier communities are characterised by multiple loyalties and transcending of the purely domestic system of political organization. Historically, the momentum for institutionalised interstate cooperation in a new European agency, currently the EU, is the end of the Second World War. This innovative form of participation in a new decision-making area led to the creation of new institutions, including the European Parliament, and to political outcomes which were distinct from those in nation states' domestic politics. (1) The post-war period of remarkable attempts to transcend national loyalties and create supranational institutions saw the European Community (EC) and its assembly, the European Parliament (EP) advance an agenda of interstate cooperation that came to be known as integration. This article examines the early attempts of the EP to transcend national loyalties in its party organisation. In marked contrast to territorial representation of nation states, representation in the EP was swiftly organised in party formations, known as political groups or, more commonly, party groups. This article attempts to provide some contemporary analysis, prompted by the need to reassess the origins of integration objectives in transcending national imperatives; by debates on the EU's future in the European Convention and by the oft-quoted call by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer for

   the transition from a union of states to full parliamentarization as
   a European Federation, something Robert Schuman demanded 50 years
   ago. And that means nothing less than a European Parliament and a
   European government which really do exercise legislative and
   executive power within the Federation. (2)

For Fischer, the EP must represent both a Europe of the nation-states and a Europe of the citizens. In the early EP and its precursor, the Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), established in 1952, representatives from national parliamentary delegations of the six (3) founding states effected a transcending of exclusively national perspectives with the creation of groupings based on transnational ideological and political affiliation. (4)

This article examines this new parliamentary institution which was attempting in a modest way to advance European Integration (EI). Integration can be defined as the initiative to unite states in a grouping for the benefit of both the organisation and its constituent members. Integration is also a long-term objective and process to bring about closer cooperation among member states in order to achieve a state of union. Three points are pertinent here. Firstly, integration has had different meanings over time, and in the 1950s-70s, its goal altered from the creation of a European Political Community and European Defence Community initiatives in the 1950s, to the 1970s goals of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and closer foreign policy coordination. Many normative accounts have regarded the EI process as having an ultimate end goal of political union. Secondly, a new space was created, developed and extended by the EP party groups as purposive actors--a space which was both transnational and supranational. Thirdly, it is important to be cognizant of the constraining factors relating to the promotion of integration or Europeanisation in the EP. …