Still Secluded: Eastern European Representation in the EU Parliament

By Sokol, Petr | The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Still Secluded: Eastern European Representation in the EU Parliament


Sokol, Petr, The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs


In June of this year, the European Parliamentary elections will reveal whether the Eastern European nations have received enough recognition on the European political scene, and whether their "older" partners have accepted them as equal and fair players. So far it doesn't look like this is the case....

This year will mark the fifth anniversary since the Czech Republic and nine other post-communist states from Central and Eastern Europe ascended into the European Union. These states are also nearing the twentieth anniversary since their transition from communism to democracy. With these milestones drawing close, it is an opportune time to examine how the political parties from these states function within the European structures of integration.

NEW MEMBERS AND THEIR POSITIONS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

There are 785 representatives in the European Union Parliament (EP) out of which 212 or 27 percent are from the ten post-communist member states. The number and proportion of these "Eastern Europeans" in individual groups within the EP varies significantly. The largest political group--the EPP-ED--is composed of the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats. With 288 representatives in all, about one-third of its members are from post-communist nations--32 percent or 93 representatives.

On the other hand, only 42 representatives (just under 20 percent) belong to the European Socialist party's group PES), while about one-third of the representatives in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) are from post-communist nations--31 representatives from ten different states.

There is only one political group in the EU Parliament in which representatives from the post-communist nations have a majority. This right-wing group is known as the Union for Europe of Nations. After the 2005 elections, UEN had 27 members, out of which 13 (48 percent) came from Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. That percentage has since risen to 59 percent with 20 Polish representatives, four Latvian, and two Lithuanian.

On the other hand, the number of representatives from post-communist states in smaller political groups is a lot less pronounced. The smallest faction, which accounts for 22 members of the EP, has a quarter of its members from these states. The other extreme example is seen in the Greens/European Free Alliance (G/ EFA), which brings together European environmentalists and regionalists. Out of the group's 43 representatives, only two come from countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain: one member represents the Russian minority in Latvia and the other, the Hungarian minority in Romania. The representatives from post-communist states account for less than five percent of their total membership. In fact, neither of these aforementioned representatives belongs to the Green Party, but have regional membership in the European Free Alliance (EFA). As a result, not one "post-communist" Green representative sits in the European Parliament.

From this perspective, the representation of post-communist representatives among European communists is only slightly better. Their EP group, known as the European United Left /Nordic Green Left (EUL/NGL), has 42 members; six are from former Eastern block countries.

Eighteen percent of the representatives from the Euro-skeptic group Independence and Democracy (IND/DEM) come from post-communist states. With that said, only eight representatives from the post-communist countries do not belong to any political group but to the ranks of the uncategorized. Eastern Europeans account for 26 percent or a little over a quarter of the uncategorized representatives.

THE EUROPEAN FIFTEEN AND THEIR PLACE IN PARLIAMENTARY BODIES

It is more difficult to find representatives from the former communist states in positions of leadership in the Parliament--this includes the office of president and fourteen vice-presidential positions. …

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