"Given the changing role of the Parliament and the new structures of its groups, Fianna Fáil has no alternative but to reconsider current arrangements. We need to strengthen our work with others who share our basic approach while insisting on the right to vote in accordance with the views of the people we represent. To that end, we will soon advance a proposal to join, for the first time, a pan-European party - the European Liberal, Democratic and Reform Party. Our representatives have been part of that party's group in the Council of Europe for some time and this has worked out well - particularly because it is a group which works hard to respect the views of smaller countries.Following June's election, should everything progress as expected, we will then consider joining the parliamentary group to which the ELDR is affiliated. I am confident that we can negotiate a position that will strengthen our voice and that of all people who believe in a Europe of states working closely together."
Full text here: http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0227/cowenspeech.html
This set me thinking about a facet of the European structures we often overlook, the pan-European Parties that most of our MEP's join when they go to Brussels. So who are the "Europarties," and when we tick the box for our prefered candidate which Europarty will they join and what does it stand for?
The largest of the Europarties is currently the European Peoples Party - European Democrats, EPP-ED, with 284 members. Really this is an alliance of the EPP and ED. The EPP a centre right party in the christian democratic / liberal / conservative tradition. Members include the German Christian Democrats, the French Union for a Popular Movement and Fine Gael. The ED is a loose association of conservative parties including both the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists, conveniently enough for Jim Nicholson.
Second is the Party of European Socialists, PES, with 215 MEP's. Members include the German SPD, the French Socialist Party, Irish Labour and the Labour Party along with the SDLP.
Third is the group that Fianna Fail are proposing to join the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe this group includes the Union for French Democracy, the German Free Democratic Party and the Liberal Democrats. The Irish PD MEP currently sits with this group.
Next is the Union for Europe of the Nations a national conservative group with 44 MEP's of which Fianna Fail is currently a member.
With 43 MEP's are the Greens
This is followed by the succinctly titled Party of the European Left Nordic Green Left Alliance which is really a pact between the European United Left and the Nordic Green Left Alliance. their combined website is http://www.guengl.org/showPage.jsp Together they have 41 MEP's including Sinn Fein's 2 MEP's who sit with the European United Left.
Finally there is another double party pact of Alliance of Independent Democrats in Europe (AIDE) EUDemocrats with 24 MEP's. This Eurosceptic Group includes UKIP. http://indemgroup.org/
There are also 32 non-aligned MEP's including Jim Allister.
Having spent a little time finding out who these parties are, I'm not sure I'm much the wiser. Like most of the inner workings of the European Union they are largely invisible to ordinary citizens. Their role seems, largely, to be one of divvying up the best jobs at Brussels. When it comes to determining policy or any of the other functions of a normal political party it is unlikely that the national parties will allow them any role, now or at any time in the foreseeable future.