wide level can obtain seats in the EP because of the over-representation of the smaller Member States. Second, the continuing expansion of the EU can be either a positive or a negative factor for Europarty evolution. Previously isolated national delegations may find allies to form a party group among the representatives of newly incorporated Member States. But the incorporation of new delegations into existing party groups can prove to be problematic. In some cases, EP elections can be very disruptive, especially for the more recent and smaller EP party groups; as a result, elections can be a negative factor in party system consolidation. On balance, however, these two sets of factors, which have their effects during the parliamentary term as well as at election time and both favour and potentially hinder Europarty development, have produced an overall positive trend in EP party group consolidation. In the last two years, the general context in which Europarties are developing has undergone some significant changes. With the sixth direct elections to the EP held in June 2004, the effects of the latest EU enlargement from 15 to 25 countries came to bear on the EP and on the Europarty system. The 732 member strong EP now represents approximately 455 million European citizens whose cultural and political milieus reflect unprecedented diversity. As a result, it was anticipated that the disturbances to the party system normally associated with elections would be even greater than in the past. Furthermore, although the implications of this were contested, Europarties were for the first time regulated by a new statute defining their role and organisation, even outside of the EP.4 It is expected that the new statute, perhaps
for the first time, will give a strong impetus to the development of the extra-parliamentary organisational structures of the Europarties. EU Enlargement and the 2004 elections As we had anticipated, the 2004 elections were an unprecedented event in the history of the Europarty system in terms of the sheer numerical impact of the delegations from the new Member States on the existing party groups, and also because of what we could broadly define as qualitative differences between the newcomers and the longer-established parties from the older Member States. Both factors could have an impact on Europarty development. Whilst we can only speculate on the consequences of the latter, we are able to study empirically the effects of the former. We know from the literature that the institutional development of EP party groups can be assessed by monitoring their inclusiveness and cohesion. The inclusiveness of the groups in the EP can be observed from diachronic changes in group membership and, more specifically, from trends in the number of members and number of countries represented. The cohesion of the groups, on the other hand, can be observed from the degree of agreement shown in rollcall votes by the MEPs composing the groups. Empirical studies of these phenomena have cumulatively produced a positive assessment of EP group institutionalisation.5 Here we will perforce limit ourselves to updating the analysis of inclusiveness as it is too early in the term to collect sufficient data for an assessment of cohesion. We will also consider, through an analysis of appropriate indicators, the impact of the 2004 elections on the Europarty system.
Statute for European political parties, EP and Council regulation No 2004/2003, 4 November 2003. For a summary of these results, see L. Bardi, â€˜Parties and party systems in the European Unionâ€™ (see n. 3).
Volume 3 - Spring 2006
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy