CHAPTER 9
Political parties and the European Union

Political parties are usually viewed as national organisations which have local and
regional branches. However, they may also have an international and/or transnational
dimension. Given its immense size, the EU provides opportunities for like-minded parties
to cooperate in pursuit of their aims. It also has a considerable impact upon party
politics in the member states, providing a whole new set of issues with which politicians
have to deal.

As the Union developed, so commentators began to look for signs that national
parties were becoming more ‘European’ in their outlook, in reflection of the general
move towards a more integrationist approach. To what extent is a uniquely European
party system likely to develop, linked to but distinct from the party systems prevalent in
member countries? Or can European party politics only be interpreted in terms of the
impact on the fortunes of national parties in the various states?

There is a wide spectrum of political parties across Europe. Over recent years, there has been a decline of far-left organisations, with the diminution in support for eurocommunism from its heyday of the 1970s in Western Europe and the breakdown of the Soviet empire in the East. Today, social democracy is the main ideology of the left and this is a moderate form of socialism. In most cases, it combines support for governmental provision of services with a greater interest in self-reliance than was prevalent in the past. On the right, Christian Democrat parties are active in most continental countries. They share a greater interest in social issues than has been traditional in the British Conservative Party, seeing welfarism as the best means of avoiding tension within society. These two positions dominate party politics within the member states and the European Union.At present, national political parties of whatever persuasion are involved in the affairs of the European Union in three ways:
at the transnational level
via the transnational political groupings in the European Parliament
via their activities back home, where the agenda they pursue has become increasingly ‘Europeanised’, as developments within the Union create a whole new battleground and set of issues with which to contend.

Transnational parties

The establishment of European institutions as part of the ECSC, EEC and other bodies encouraged the growth of transnational confederations of political parties. They are loose associations which bring together broadly like-minded parties from member states in one organisation. Their development was given further impetus as a consequence of the introduction of direct elections to the

-152-

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The European Union
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Boxes vii
  • Tables viii
  • Maps ix
  • Introduction x
  • Background Information xv
  • Section One- History 1
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter 1 - The Drive for European Unity to 1973 5
  • Chapter 2 - From Community to Union, 1973–93 30
  • Chapter 3 - Consolidating the European Union, 1993 To the Present Day 49
  • Chapter 4 - The Movement to Integration- A Theoretical Perspective 61
  • Section Two- Institutions 73
  • Introduction 75
  • Chapter 5 - Institutions of the European Union 76
  • Chapter 6 - Policy-Making and Law-Making Processes 97
  • Chapter 7 - Democracy and the European Union 115
  • Section Three- Representation 127
  • Introduction 129
  • Chapter 8 - Elections to the European Parliament 130
  • Chapter 9 - Political Parties and the European Union 152
  • Chapter 10 - Pressure Groups and the European Union 171
  • Section Four- Policies 189
  • Introduction 191
  • Chapter 11 - The Union Budget 196
  • Chapter 12 - First-Pillar Policies 204
  • Chapter 13 - Second- And Third-Pillar Policies 230
  • Section Five- Attitudes 239
  • Introduction 241
  • Chapter 14 - Member States 250
  • Chapter 15 - Britain and Europe- A Case Study 266
  • Conclusion- the State of the Union, Past and Present 277
  • References 294
  • Further Reading 303
  • Index 307
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