EU Enlargement, European Parliament Elections and Transnational Trends in European Parties
It would thus seem that the 2004 elections have not had a measurable negative impact on the Europarty system. The quantitative measurements of a number of indicators are in line with those of previous parliaments, when EU membership was much smaller. It might be too soon, however, to discount the possible qualitative effects of enlargement. The majority of the countries involved had to simultaneously convert to democracy, develop capitalist and pluralist societies, adopt full national sovereignty and meet EU conditions within a relatively short period of time. From this perspective, the efforts of Europarties to proactively bring the political forces of future Member States into the European mainstream had important implications both for themselves and for party and party-system development in the candidate countries.
or at least maintain their numerical force in the enlarged EP and, as we shall see in our discussion of the new statute, a source of possible financial advantage. In the 2004–09 parliament, the new entries account for 158 out of the 732 seats or almost 22% of the total—a percentage that no Europarty can afford to ignore.
Paradoxically, the success that Europarties have demonstrated in attracting the overwhelming majority of the new national party delegations might cause a further weakening of their identity and cohesiveness. It is still unclear, in fact, whether such efforts have been able to overcome the cultural and value differences articulated in the parties and party systems of the new, developing Member States. These may well spill over into broader EU political processes with unpredictable effects on Europarty development.
The statute’s provisions may well be able to consolidate more effectively than has been the case up to now the various party components operating at the European level: transnational federations, parliamentary groups and national parties. In fact, even if the statute practically identifies Europarties with federations, the provisions for their constitutions and for their access to financing link them with the other two components. The preamble reiterates the wording of Article 191 TEC on the importance of Europarties in shaping a European consciousness and for expressing the political will of EU citizens.
EU enlargement, the Statute governing European political parties and Europarty federations Whatever its effects on EP party groups, EU enlargement may lead to a strengthening of the party federations.6 Because of the EU’s size following the entry of the ten new members, the federations may find new incentives and opportunities for action. In fact, the federations see the inclusion of the parties coming from the new member countries as a way to strengthen
The statute for European political parties, approved in November 2003, is a concise document that defines the role of European political parties and the requirements for receiving funding from the European Union. Much space is dedicated to the aspects directly linked to financing, perhaps because the statute was in part justified by the need to use public funds to promote democracy in the new member countries.
The requirements for the recognition of Europarties, in addition to a desire to participate in the EP elections, are the following: legal status in the country in which the Europarty has its headquarters (almost inevitably Belgium); representatives elected to the EP, the national or the regional parliaments in at least one quarter of the member countries or at least 3% of the votes in the last EP elections in at least one quarter of the Member States;7 and respect shown in the
Bardi and Ignazi, Il parlamento europeo, 2nd ed. (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2004) pp. 126-8. This clause, and the fact that the total financing also depends on the party’s size, constitutes an incentive for Europarties to attract kindred parties from new Member States.
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy