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The Emergence of a Transnational European Party System

remained open during preparations for the Intergovernmental Conference and which the EPP regarded as essential. He presented these to the meeting, in each case making sure he had the expli- cit backing of the heads of government in the room.16 Among these points was the draft article on European parties. Martens got the green light: all the Christian Democratic leaders agreed to insist that the clause be in the text of the Treaty. There was no resistance to Martens’ proposals at the Maastricht European Council. Only the Portuguese prime minister, Anibal Cavaco Silva, asked for clarification, and he was satisfied with the answer. The European Council then agreed without further intervention. However, the wording of the article remained open. It was supposed to be left to the conference of diplomats entrusted with editing the decisions and agreed texts of the Maastricht ‘summit’. Article 138A of the Treaty on European Union, finally signed on 7 February 1992 by 12 foreign and finance ministers, reads as follows: Political parties at European level are important as factors for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union. It is worth noting that the definition contained in the party leaders’ proposal was not taken up, thus avoiding the laying down of a specific party model as the norm. 17 The European responsibility



The successful initiative by the three party

leaders did not fall out of the sky. It matured over a fairly long period, thanks to joint efforts. In 1989 the secretaries-general of the three party federations had begun meeting from time to time to talk about common problems and to exchange experiences. The result of these conversations was the idea of bringing their party presidents together and starting joint discussions on “the development and role of European parties or party federations in the Community’s political system”, and on “relations with the groups in the European Parliament.” 18 The first meeting of the party leaders Wilfried Martens, Guy Spitaels and Willy de Clercq was on 18 September 1990. They agreed to talk again and to hold a joint press conference just before the European Council met in Rome on 12 December 1990 to convene the Intergovernmental Conference on the Treaty on European Union (in other words, the further development of the Community’s political system). The three explicitly wanted to make a joint statement on this issue, to ensure their demand for a role for the European parties was firmly on the agenda. The communiqué released on 12 December following their second meeting declared that Since their foundation in the mid 1970s, the European People’s Party and the Union of Social-Democratic Parties in the European Community, and also the European Liberals and Democrats, have all in their own way made major contributions to European integration. Despite their political rivalry, and their opposed positions on numerous questions, both as regards content and method, all three European parties or federations of parties stress their common responsibility for the proper functioning

The following heads of government took part in the EPP ‘Summit’ in The Hague and in the meeting of the European Council in Maastricht: Ruud Lubbers, Helmut Kohl, Konstantine Mitsotakis, Guilio Andreotti, Jacques Santer and Wilfried Martens. 17 Tsatsos, op. cit. p. 49, regards this as a decision “against the pure confederation model” which he saw as the intention of party leaders’ proposal. The EPP’s consistent ambition has been to become a federative “European party”, an aim more recently echoed by the Socialists as well as the Liberals. The party leaders’ definition indirectly refers to this. But it does not refer to a confederation model. Rather—and this is quite clear, as Tsatsos rightly states—it is a reference to the same model one finds in Article 138A: “ having its own European institutional subjectivity, and also permitting individual membership, either directly or indirectly through membership of a national party.” 18 Agenda for the meeting of 18 September 1990: EPP General Secretariat Archive. 16


European View

European View_Transnational parties and european democracy  

European View_Transnational parties and european democracy

European View_Transnational parties and european democracy  

European View_Transnational parties and european democracy