of democracy and for the success of the European Union. To that end, they are working closely with their different political groups in the European Parliament. These groups play a major part in the continuing efforts to create a transnational consensus inside the different political families. They take it as read that, without parties to express the political will of the citizens, there is no democracy! This holds good at all levels of political representation, and logically for the European Community as well, and above all for the European Union. The federal and democratic union which is the goal of Social Democrats, Liberals, and Christian Democrats, must be a vital community, one in which the citizens feel at home. So the European parties or transnational federations of parties have an indispensable role which only they can fulfil. It is a role which is essential if a broad consensus is to be created, and if the effectiveness of the European institutions themselves is to be guaranteed. 19 Further meetings between the party presidents and secretaries-general during 1991 served to prepare the 1 July initiative and to spread the word about it; the follow-up was also discussed on these occasions. Article 138A of the Maastricht Treaty articulates the recognition that if the further unification of Europe is to be successful and a transnational government system is to be effective, then the further development of European party structures is crucial. At the same time, this constitutional recognition of the role and function of the parties serves as an important basis for future efforts. The existence of political parties at European level is recognised. Parties are accorded the task of advancing the process of integration, building a European consciousness, and expressing “the
will of the citizens of the Union”. It is a matter of “a framework of rules which allow for a number of concrete possibilities.” 20 Following the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, several meetings of the three party leaders took place over the course of that year. Also present were the chairmen of the political groups and the president of the European Parliament. Everything turned on the question of what was to be done to breathe life into Article 138A, and who was to do it. Two sets of problems loomed large, inextricably bound together but perhaps needing to be dealt with separately. These were completing the picture with a law or statute on parties, and the possibility created by the new treaty situation of financing European parties with Community funds. Establishing a legal status for European parties It soon became clear to those taking part that because of legal uncertainty, and also for reasons of political culture and morality, the financial question could not be posed until a number of conditions had been met. Unambiguous, legally binding rules about the organisation, activity and behaviour (including the conduct of public finances) of European parties had to be in place. Even leaving aside the question of financing the parties, it was felt that rules of this kind had become an urgent necessity. Such a European parties statute would have to define such concepts as “European parties” and “political parties at European level.” Exactly what are their tasks? What rules apply to their structure, working methods and finances? This statute would have to define the essentials clearly enough for an independent, inter-institutional authority or the European Court to be able to identify a political party at European level under Article 138A.
Communiqué 12 December 1991: EPP General Secretariat Archive (author’s translation from the French original). Tsatsos, loc. cit. p. 52.
Volume 3 - Spring 2006
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy