Uniting the Centre-right of Europe: The Result of Historical Developments and Political Leadership
The vision of a Third Way between communism and capitalism was still a live option for some Christian Democrat leaders. Christian Democrat parties from non-EC countries were not entitled to join the EPP; this was seen as discrimination against longstanding members of the Christian Democrat family. So there was a clear need for an alternative to the EPP as it was then constituted. On the one hand, the alternative needed to be a promising basis for a majority in European institutions, and on the other hand, it had to provide a home for the centre/centre-right parties outside the EC. Consequently, in addition to continuing to cooperate within the EUCD and the EPP, a number of Christian Democrat parties established regular contacts with Conservative parties from all over Europe. At inter-party conferences in the 1970s, centre-right leaders from Austria, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and later also Spain and Portugal gathered on a yearly basis. This European-level platform provided the French Gaullists and the UK Conservatives with appropriate partners, and for the CDU and CSU, it opened the door to creating a structural majority at the EC-level. This was also the right platform for the Scandinavian Conservatives, who were neither eligible nor willing to join the EUCD. For the Austrian Peopleâ€™s Party, this arrangement compensated for being left out of the EPP. On 24 April 1978, the European Democrat Union was founded in Klessheim/Salzburg. From its very beginning, the EDU pursued a clear set of goals. The 1978 Klessheim Declaration had a strong credo: democracy, liberty, the rule of law and social solidarity. The EDU defined itself as the main counterpart to socialism and communism. While in domestic policy issues the EDU stood for a social market economy, at the international level it had a clear zero-tolerance policy towards the communists.
Different political cultures The EDU followed a different model of party cooperation than the EPP. The EPP has always considered itself a party per se with all the features a party should have: huge congresses with many activists, the election of its leading representatives ad personam rather than per member party, majority voting as the rule and party-weighted votes. The democratic principle was thus stressed as the norm. In general, the EPP has always sought to become independent of its member parties, creating its own identity and being represented publicly by its own EPP leaders. In the EDU, on the other hand, cooperation was strictly hierarchical: all decision-making powers were derived from the party leaders. The Party Leaders Conference was the supreme decision making body, electing the chair and adopting the joint EDU policies. All decisions were to be taken unanimously, even in the Steering Committee, which was composed of the Secretaries-General and International Secretaries of the member parties. The EDU Chairman had to be a party leader himself, and thus hold a strong position within the organisation. However, the EDU did not aim at becoming a political entity itself; rather, it was to serve as a vehicle for cooperation among its members. For many years the EPP has been dominated by the EPP Group in the European Parliament, with its huge personnel and financial resources and above all its political power, which is increasing in step with the growing power of the European Parliament. For this reason, the EPP has been â€˜Brussels dominatedâ€™, focusing primarily on developments within EU institutions and on the development of the EU itself. The political focus of the EPP was intertwined with the priorities of the EPP Group. By and large, the debate within the EPP was among leading members of the European Parliament. The main topics of the debate have always been long-range issues, above all institutional and constitutional matters and the ongoing reform of the European
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