Two Steps to European Party Democracy
that European parties are generally qualified to perform the functions that can mediate democratic legitimacy.
Step 1. The democratic functions of the European parties • If the European party federations are to facilitate the transfer of democratic legitimacy, they must have the same characteristics that are compulsory for broadly based national parties. Since the task of reconciling social interests at the European level would be shifted to the federations, (1) there must be the same high level of internal party democracy that currently exists at the level of the Member States14 and (2) the democratic principle of party competition may not be undermined: the principle of an equal contest among several parties, which offer alternatives to the citizen, must be maintained.15 1. The European parties have already partly reached a level of internal democracy comparable to that of their national members. They could be forced by law to adopt fully democratic structures (which would be necessary for the transmission of democratic legitimacy) in the course of a reform of the voting right, e.g. by appropriate penalties in an amended “Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the regulations governing political parties at the European level and the rules regarding their funding”. Hence, the implementation of the following points would be expedient: • the governance of European parties must be legitimate (it must be based on recognised norms);16 • the equal participation of all members within
the party must be ensured (i.e. participation must be democratic);17 only citizens of the EU may be involved in the decision-making process since only they are (directly) affected by the decisions of the European parties; the national member parties must be proportionally represented; elections within the party which are general, free, secret, equal and direct must be held periodically; the majority principle should be used as a rule; decisions must be binding vis-à-vis the national parties and the EP parliamentary groups (but of course, they would not establish a binding mandate for the parliamentarians); and the mandate to express the political will should be prescribed with respect to all structural and financial matters.18
2. The establishment of a European party democracy on the basis of today’s federations would offer several voting alternatives to the citizens. In May 2004, in addition to the four established party federations (whose programs exhibit clear differences), a union of left-wing parties known as the “European Left” was formed. A re-evaluation of the party landscape on the European level could be the catalyst for the founding of additional federations. The principle of equal competition among the European parties, in particular with respect to media access, should be established, e.g. in the regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council. However, serious inequalities are not to be expected since, with only a few
Isensee 1992: 143f. (§ 162 n. 70); Leibholz 1960: 103. Niclauß 2002: 28f. This is already ensured in the Statute on European Parties, Art. 3: “A political party at European level shall satisfy the following conditions: (a) it must have legal personality in the Member State in which its seat is located”. 17 Statute on European Parties, Art. 3: “A political party at European level…(c) must observe, in particular in its programme and in its activities, the principles on which the European Union is founded, namely the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law”. 18 Statute on European Parties, Art. 8: “Appropriations received from the general budget of the European Union in accordance with this Regulation may only be used to meet expenditure directly linked to…administrative expenditure and expenditure linked to technical assistance, meetings, research, cross-border events, studies, information and publications.” 14 15 16
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy