Political Parties and the European Union

Political Parties and the European Union

Political Parties and the European Union

Political Parties and the European Union

Synopsis

Political Parties and the European Union offers a panoramic survey of the political parties of contemporary Europe. It covers party politics from Scandinavia to Greece, focusing on how parties in the individual member states have responded to the processes of European integration. Despite a trend towards political convergence, national traditions continue to shape politics across Europe. In order to reflect, and do justice to, the diversity of political cultures, the book combines case studies, comparative approaches and supranational perspectives. It examines the history of the main national parties, offers new comparative perspectives on communist, green and extreme right parties, and analyses party politics at the European level.

Excerpt

One of the most intriguing and enjoyable aspects of editing Political Parties and the European Union has been the way in which our research area changed as the project progressed. The project was begun because it was considered that some of the political, and especially party political, aspects of European integration had been somewhat neglected. As will be seen from several of the chapters in this volume, in many countries of the European Union political activity itself has intensified during the 1990s, bringing political parties to the fore, and countering many of the purely economic or institutional developments within Europe with partisan activity in the local, regional, national, intergovernmental and supranational areas. In terms of both deepening and widening the Union, and in some cases even of membership itself, the debates within and between national political parties, as well as in the party groups in the European Parliament, have reflected the growing politicization of the European integration process. From the Danish referendum ‘no’ in 1992, to the perceived ‘democratic deficit’ within the Union’s institutions; from the demands for a ‘social’ Europe to the ways in which the Union is responding to the economic recessions of its member states, the political parties of Europe have been drawn deeper into the European debate, at the same time as ‘Europe’ itself has entered decisively into national political debates.

In order to understand these developments, we have adopted three interrelated perspectives: case studies addressing the ways in which major political parties have responded to the European Union and European integration; comparative studies which appraise the political parties in one country (or in the case of Scandinavia a group of countries), or else parties from the same political family across the Union; and finally, studies focusing upon the specifically European activity of parties either in European elections, transnational federations or in the European Parliament. In this way, we hope to offer a comprehensive view of party political activity within the European framework.

There are, of course, omissions in a project of this type. There are over eighty parties represented in the European Parliament, and well over one hundred in the national parliaments of the Union; it is therefore impossible to include all of them in one volume. Even some countries of the Union have been neglected owing to constraints of space; and as the Union widens, such omissions will themselves multiply. Nevertheless, this volume provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the ways in which party politics has responded to the European Union. As regards other works which offer complementary perspectives on these issues one should cite in particular the works of Kevin Featherstone, David Hanley, Stanley Henig and

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