with a national official, is that between statists/ regulators and deregulators, exemplified by British Labour on the one hand and the French or Walloon Socialist Party (PS) on the other. For the French PS, now that it is in opposition, increased investment in PES activity is a way of winning over to one’s ideas colleagues who might be future interlocutors at the European Council, once they return to government. In many ways, little has changed for the socialists since the old International: they value the PES as a locus for the confrontation of ideas (its think-tank function is undergoing a major development under the energetic leadership of P. N. Rasmussen), but are as yet reluctant to see it develop more integrative policymaking functions. The smaller families tend to value TNPs more, albeit with qualifications. The Liberals have probably the highest level of agreement on European integration, and even though there are tensions between pure market liberals and social liberals, these tend to be manageable. Perhaps, given this high level of accord, national parties have under-used the ELDR as a resource. However, the current president, Annemie Neyts, has plans to revive the party as a forum for debate; in her view, member parties have avoided addressing squarely the question of how to take integration further, and this must be ended.8 Members should thus see the think-tank function of the party strengthened. The other key function of the ELDR must be to strengthen the liberal presence in Eastern and Central Europe. Struggling parties, such as ODA in the Czech Republic, badly need help from Brussels to build up a party machine, train cadres, drive merger negotiations with other small groups and so on. Smaller TNPs usually have less experience of government. This may explain why they were the most reluctant to adopt the form of a TNP and make full use of the European Party Statute.
Thus the networking functions of leaders’ meetings were for a long time activities in which they under-invested. This is beginning to change, as Greens and ex-communists of the Party of the European Left (PEL) increasingly embark on these activities. Particularly attractive to more activist parties of this type are the Europe-wide campaigning possibilities which their TNPs can coordinate. Both Greens and ex-communists have strong roots in civil society, the Greens via the social movements out of which their party came and the communists thanks to their connections with unions and other working class groups. Green officials have told us of their keenness to use the European Green Party (EGP) to coordinate Europe-wide campaigns on issues such as climate change. Ex-communist parties have to find a role for themselves now that the days of the ‘vanguard party’ are over; they focus increasingly on campaigns of extraparliamentary mobilisation, merging their efforts with, among others, the anti-globalisation movement. National party officials are keen to use the PEL as a coordinator and amplifier of such work. Such campaigning fits in easily with the PEL membership’s general hostility to further integration and its arguments in favour of a more social Europe. If the PEL is mainly dealing with older parties which are being recycled, so to speak, the Greens are concerned to build up parties of a new family. The European Green Party is seen by parties from Eastern and Central Europe in particular as a means of support and legitimation. Of particular interest is the close cross-frontier cooperation which, under EGP aegis, exists between the Czech Greens and their more experienced and better resourced sister-parties in Austria, Bavaria and Saxony. The cases of the Greens and ex-communists thus reveal another paradox. The Greens generally favour more integration (with notable exceptions, such as
Interview with author, November 2005.
Volume 3 - Spring 2006
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy