This chapter examines the party system of the European Parliament (EP). In the early 1950s, members of the EP decided to form party-political groups instead of national blocs to counterbalance the dominance of national interests in the European Council. Since then, the party groups have gradually, but consistently, consolidated their positions in the EP. The chapter first considers the shape of the EP party system, the structure of the party groups, and the role of national parties within them. It then looks at the Spitzenkandidaten (lead candidates) initiative, whereby the Europarties put forward their own candidates for the Commission President in the 2014 elections. It also discusses coalition politics and parliamentary committees as well as electoral accountability in the EP and concludes with an overview of the state of research on the EP party system, emphasizing the need to understand how coalitions are formed in the committees and the plenary.
This chapter examines the competition of ideas in France for intra-European cooperation in the 1950s, ranging from traditional intergovernmental arrangements to the sharing of national sovereignty. In particular, it considers how strong political leadership and the formation of crosscutting coalitions that commanded a majority of parliamentary support at critical junctures contributed to the triumph of Community Europe, in the form of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC). The chapter argues that the future of European integration, which followed the Community model, hinged on electoral outcomes and parliamentary manoeuvrings in France that had less to do with the forcefulness of the ideas at issue than with unrelated political developments. It also looks at the demise of the European Defence Community (EDC) that paved the way for the ECSC and EEC projects.
15. European parties:
a powerful caucus in the European Parliament and beyond
The party system of the European Parliament (EP) has been dominated by the two main European party families: centre-right conservatives and Christian democrats, on the one hand, and centre-left social democrats on the other, which controlled the majority of the seats until the 2019 elections. In the early 1950s, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) decided to form party-political groups, instead of national blocs, to counterbalance the dominance of national interests in the Council. Over the decades, the shape of the EP party system has become more stable, and traditional levels of group cohesion and coalition formation have not really been affected by the rise of populism and the increasing politicization of European integration. National parties remain influential within party groups, not least through their control of candidate selection. Outside of the Parliament, Europarties—parties operating at the European level—influence both the broader development of integration and the choice of the Commission president.