European Political Parties & Political Groups
By Kayla Malone, NYU ’15
European political parties, also known as Europarties, are transnational political organizations composed of various national political parties united by a common ideology or interest. Europarties were recognized in 1992 with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which stated: “Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union.” These political parties now play an important role in the European Parliament and European elections. They have the right to campaign Europe-wide during elections, yet most candidates campaign within their national party and then join an European political group upon election, which will be further discussed in the next post. European political groups are the political groups of the European Parliament. Sometimes, these political groups are directly related to a Europarty. On a general basis, they are loose coalitions of common ideologies. Due to the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, European political groups and paries could have an increased role in the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty has been interpreted by some that the European political groups will be able to nominate their own candidate to the European Council for the President of the European Commission. In fact, the Lisbon Treaty simply states that the Council will take the outcome of the election into account when selecting the next Commission President. This is the first parliamentary election that the Lisbon Treaty will be effective, and groups already have their eyes set on the Commission presidency.
There are 13 officially recognized Europarties: European People’s Party, Party of the European Socialists, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, European Green Party, Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, The Party of the European Left, Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy, European Democratic Party, European Free Alliance, European Alliance for Freedom, Alliance of European National Movements, European christian Political Movement, and the EU Democrats. Outlined below are the five largest parties, which are represented by corresponding political groups within the European Parliament, as decided by the number of seats obtained in the Parliament:
European People’s Party
Political Position/Ideology: Center-Right
General Platform: Emphasis on freedom, democracy, Social Market Economy, traditions, and solidarity.
European Parliamentary Political Group: European People’s Party (EPP)
Example Member Parties: Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Germany, New Democracy of Greece, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) of France
The European People’s Party (EPP) has been Europe’s largest party since 1999 and currently holds 265 of the 736 seats in the European Parliament. According to the EPP, the party is “the family of the political centre-right, whose roots run deep in the history and civilization of the European continent and has pioneered the European project from its inception.” It was founded in 1976 by Christian democratic parties from multiple nations but has since expanded to include more conservative parties.
Party of the European Socialists
Political Position/Ideology: Center-Left
General Platform: Emphasis on democracy, equality, solidarity and social justice
European Parliamentary Political Group: The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D)
Example Member Parties: Democratic Party (PD) of Italy, Labour Party of the United Kingdom, Social Democratic Party of Finland
The Party of European Socialists (PES) is the second largest political party in Europe. In the European Parliament, this party operates as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and currently holds 184 seats in the Parliament. The party can trace its origins to 1953 under various names, with its current name being adopted in 2009. Until 1999 and the victory of the European People’s Party, PES was the largest party in the EP.
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Political Position/Ideology: Liberalism
General Platform: Emphasis on political, economical, and societal freedom; pro-European; decentralization of the EU
European Parliamentary Political Group: The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Example Member Parties: Democratic Party of Luxembourg, National Liberal Party of Romania, Reformist Movement of Belgium
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) was founded in 1976 and became the first officially organized party in 1993. It currently holds 84 seats in the European Parliament. According to the ALDE’s mission statement, the party is “committed to ensuring that the European Union develops legislation in as decentralised a manner as possible, communicating with and listening to Europe’s citizens in a systematic way.” Due to their focus on connecting citizens to the EU, they have gained significance and influence in European politics.
European Green Party
Political Position/Ideology: Green politics
General Platform: Environmentalism; sustainability; equality for all; democracy; individual freedom
European Parliamentary Political Group: The Greens–European Free Alliance
Example Member Parties: Democratic Alternative of Malta, Latvian Green Party, Equo of Spain
The European Green Party, founded in 2004, is composed of 34 national green parties from across Europe. They currently hold 55 seats within the European Parliament, where they work towards the democratization of the EU institutions and environmental responsibility.
Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists
Political Position/Ideology: Center-Right, Euroscepticism, economic liberalism
General Platform: Radical reform of the EU; protection of borders; free enterprise; small government and low taxes; emphasis on freedom and family as foundation of society
European Parliamentary Political Group: European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)
Example Member Parties: Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, Civic Conservative Party of Slovakia
The Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) currently holds 54 seats in the European Parliament. A majority of these seats comes from the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, which provides 25 MEPs. Founded in 2009, the AECR has followed the wave of euroscepticism, especially in the United Kingdom, to become the fourth largest party in the EP.
The above graph shows the make-up of the European Parliament in terms of political group affiliation.