Uniting the Centre-right of Europe: The Result of Historical Developments and Political Leadership
Christian Democrats and Conservatives. The collapse of communism slowly but surely had an impact on political thinking in the Western democracies. The purist Christian Democrat ideologies, rooted in Italy and the Benelux countries, were in decline. On the other hand, with the departure of Margaret Thatcher and the subsequent decline of Thatcherism itself, and with the self-imposed isolation of the UK Conservatives from European issues, the other end of the centre-right spectrum also lost influence. The result was a general tendency to move towards the centre/centre-right. Moreover, following the EU enlargement of 1995, the entry of the conservative parties from Northern Europe into the European People’s Party marked the ideological breakthrough. Later the Forza Italia and the French RPR joined the EPP. Within the European Parliament, the EPP continued to form a group with the British Conservatives and later with additional Conservative parties from Central and Eastern Europe. Turning to the second of the two developments, the enlargement of the European Union in 2004 made the geographical division of labour between the EDU and the EPP superfluous. In the period leading up to their membership in the EU, the Christian Democrat, Conservative and like-minded parties from Central and Eastern Europe had already enjoyed practically full status within the EPP. Both elements, ideological rapprochement and membership convergence, called for the timely integration of the two organisations. A successful integration process Negotiations to bring about the closer cooperation of the centre-right parties have a long tradition. During the 1990s a number of initiatives were undertaken in order to avoid duplication in the activities of the EDU, the EUCD and the EPP. However, the organisations were still too far apart to achieve structural reforms. The 18th EDU Party Leaders Conference in Salzburg on 24–25 April 1998 brought new
impetus. Entitled ‘Towards the majority’, a new mission statement for the EDU was adopted by the EDU party leaders: The cooperation within the European Democrat Union has proved to be a success story: Parties of different traditional backgrounds, Conservative, Christian Democrat or like-minded centrist parties, from small or large nations, from Member States of the European Union and non-EU states have worked together for their joint principles. Communism and old-style socialism have been defeated on our continent, and it is our principles which have shaped European policy over the past years. However, there are new challenges. The socialist and leftist parties have moved their rhetoric to the centre, and new forms of populist parties and movements are gaining support. In many European countries, the EDU parties are again in opposition. This must be reversed. On the other hand, the European and international cooperation of the EDU parties is not yet sufficiently streamlined to maximise the potential of our parties. Apart from the European Democrat Union, many of the EDU members are also members of the European People’s Party and their corresponding groups in the European parliamentary institutions; others are members of the ‘Union for Europe’ in the European Parliament and the ‘European Democratic Group’ in the Council of Europe. The European Union of Christian Democrats still exists although it is currently being integrated into the EPP. Multiple memberships are a constraint on maximising the potential of EDU parties in the European cooperation, both in the political field where our opponents could take advantage of this fragmentation, and is a burden on the human and financial resources of the EDU members.
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy