Keeping it in the Family? National Parties and the Transnational Experience
the English or Scandinavians), including within their own TNP. The ex-communists strive to resist such developments, believing they can best exert influence at national level. Yet both are able to use the new opportunity of a TNP to press their strategies, countervailing though these may be.
Panebianco’s ideas about how parties grab any opportunity to survive or grow. They show the importance of political opportunity structures. Here are national parties seizing a transnationally generated chance to fund actions whose ultimate purpose is to counter transnationalism! Conclusion
The smallest party of all, the European Free Alliance–Democratic Party of the Peoples of Europe (EFA-DPPE), has the most difficult task. Its members are by definition active not at statewide level but within regions of nation-states, whose legitimacy they challenge to various degrees. For such parties—with few MEPs and, in most cases, little opportunity to share in regional government—membership of a TNP is about belonging to a shared community of minorities, about mutual support and publicity, and learning from each others’ experiences. Once they had seen, after initial coolness, that the EU could be an opportunity to outflank or gain leverage on those nation-states whom they contested, regionalists were among the earliest to invest in transnational structures. In the Europe of Regions to which most of them aspire, such collaboration seems more natural. A final, intriguing case is the Eurosceptic family, incarnated in the Independence and Democracy Group in the EP. On the face of it, such a group is an accidental coming together of parties who want either to quit the EU or to downsize its activities considerably. It might be thought that such parties would simply form an EP group in order to play a spoiling role. Certainly, many of them disapprove on moral or political grounds of the idea of public money being used to finance European parties. Recent developments suggest a change in attitude, however. At time of writing, two would-be parties from this group have applied for registration under the Statute. Interviews with officials suggest that the eventual TNP structures (if the applications are accepted) will be minimal, with the funding being used to fuel anti-integration campaigns in Member States. This runs parallel to what the PEL is doing. Both cases powerfully demonstrate
These few selected and generalised examples only hint at the complex ways in which national parties can relate to their TNPs. We have treated the problem at the party family level. Obviously if one went down a further level and looked at individual national parties inside each family, an even wider variety of cases would arise. For the present, we can offer limited conclusions. All party families find membership of a TNP useful for various basic functions. The primary one is identity-building and consolidation, via the decantation of new members; TNPs are the major means of ‘keeping it within the family’. But networking and providing fora for reflection are also important. Beyond that, divergences begin to creep in. We may briefly speculate about some of the reasons for this diversity. Size is not all-important: there is no automatic correlation between how big a TNP is and how its members view it. The PES is one of the biggest and, on the level of identity, best integrated, but members seem reluctant to let it develop. The EPP has also built up its bulk, but that does not attract automatically, as the UK Tories show. And, arguing a contrario, smaller parties like those of the PEL long scorned the idea of a TNP, seeing no advantage in joining their efforts. Yet the even smaller regionalists were always keen. Closeness to government does not always affect parties’ attitude to TNPs in the same way. Most members of the centre-right EPP are ‘natural parties of government’ and have found the networking of the EPP—even (especially?) when they are in opposition—to be highly useful. Yet the UK Conservatives are an exception to
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy