In the European Parliament there are a number of groups which represent different political parties from across the European Union. Each of them offers a different set of policies and ideology.
There are currently eight groups within the European Parliament ranging from Euroscepticism to Socialism. The different groups provide a way for numerous political parties from across the EU to decide upon policies and push for representation on the supra-national level.
Below is an explanation of the different groups, how they tend to vote, and which prominent political parties are included within their membership.
European People’s Party
The European People’s Party (EPP) is a largely centre-right political grouping which comprises a number of Conservative and Christian-democratic political parties. The group is the largest in the European Union and has been so since 1999. The group’s influence is present in the commission where the grouping has 13 commissioners from parties represented in the EPP. Furthermore, 14 of the 28 heads of state and government in the EU are representatives on the European Council. Therefore, this grouping has wide influence in the European Parliament and European Union as a whole.
The EPP has representatives from 27 out of 28 member states, the United Kingdom is the only exception. The group has representatives from the German Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) who are headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel who has been a prominent figure in European politics over the past few years. The grouping also includes members from the Spanish People’s Party and the Democratic Union of Catalonia. Other notable representatives include the Civic Platform of Poland, Forza Italia and the Union for a Popular Movement from France.
According to statistics the group is the third most active in the European Parliament. The group campaigns upon the principle of Europe remaining as lean as possible with an emphasis on local and regional self-governance. However, the group also supports gradual progress towards a ‘genuine European political union’ as well as calling for the direct election of the President of the European commission in order to address the perceived democratic deficit in Europe.
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) is a centre-left grouping representing the Party of European Socialists. Since 1999 it has been the second largest grouping in the European Parliament after the EPP. The group has been through a number of name changes but can trace its roots back to 1953. The group is currently headed by its president Hannes Swoboda of Austria who has been a Member of the European Parliament since 1996.
Unlike the EPP it has representatives from all 28 member states. The S&D includes a number of prominent socialist and social democratic parties from across Europe. The SPD of Germany is the largest contingent within the group but is currently in opposition in domestic politics. The UK Labour Party adds 13 MEPs to this grouping while the governing party of Denmark in the Social Democrats is also represented. Two other prominent members with 21 MEPs each include the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and the Italian Democratic Party.
The S&D grouping says it focuses on social justice, financial market reform and a commitment to human rights. The group also has a strong commitment to dealing with unemployment and economic reform following the Eurozone crisis which shook the continent. The group also favours greater direct democracy for European citizens including the European Citizen Initiative which gives European citizens the chance to propose laws to the European Commission if they gather one million signatures.
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE/ADLE) group is a liberal and centrist grouping within the European Parliament. The group dates its origins back to the early 1950s, much like the EPP and S&D. It has served in some coalition parliaments – most recently with the EPP.
The grouping has representatives from 20 member states and includes a number of liberal and liberal-democratic groups from across Europe. The two most prominent members of the grouping include the British Liberal Democrats, who currently form a coalition with the Conservative Party in the UK, and the FDP in Germany who until recently participated in a coalition in Germany. The grouping also includes the Danish Venstre party, the Swedish Liberal People’s Party and the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.
The group has a number of different viewpoints including an emphasis on neo-liberal economics, European integration and support for the European single market. The group also supports more cooperation between European states on issues of foreign policy in order to create an External Action Service with a greater emphasis on promoting democracy and human rights as an organisation.
The Greens-European Free Alliance
The Greens-European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) group is a green and regional-focused organisation. The grouping represents a number of regionalist parties which are currently not independent states. However, the group does have representatives from national, non-regional parties.
Some of the groups most prominent members include the Scottish National Party (SNP) who may succeed in making Scotland an independent country later this year. It also has representatives form the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, the Republican Left of Catalonia and the Galician Nationalist Bloc. However, a number of green-minded national parties also exist within the grouping such as the Swedish Green Party and the Greek Ecologist Greens. Another interesting party within this bloc is the Swedish Pirate Party which campaigns for greater privacy on the internet and reform of copyright laws.
The grouping campaigns on the promise of promoting the interests of representatives from ‘stateless’ nations and disadvantaged minorities as well as a focus on a green agenda for greater environmental awareness. The group has 58 MEPs from 15 countries and places gender equality at the centre of its campaigns with 18 female MEPs and 20 male MEPs.
European Conservatives and Reformists
The fifth largest grouping in the European Parliament are the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) is a conservative grouping. It currently comprises 57 MEPs from eleven member states. The grouping draws much of its support from the UK, central Europe and some of the Baltic states. the group is often described as Euro-sceptic and anti-federalist, traditionally being suspicious of greater European integration.
Following the move of the British Conservative Party the grouping increased its number of MEPs massively – this affiliation added 26 members to the group. The next largest political representative in this group is the Czech Civic Democratic Party and Poland Together.
The group advocates a ‘third way’ between break-up of the union and a move towards a European ‘super state’. In this it calls for urgent reform of the European Union, something which has featured prominently in the UK in recent years, and calls for an EU of ‘Eurorealism’ set out in the Prague Declaration which it claims would mean that reform of the EU would allow the union to listen to people in member states while improving trade relations.
European United Left – Nordic Green Left
The European United Left (GUE/NGL) is one of the smaller groupings within the European Parliament. The group was established in 1995 and includes members which campaign mostly on a socialist or communist platform.
The group has a total membership of 35 MEPs from 13 member states. The party with the largest number of MEPs in the grouping is The Left (Die Linke) who are the successor party to the former Communist Party of East Germany with 8 MEPs represented within the group. The Czech Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia has four representatives while the French united Left Front has five members through pooling support from four political parties.
The group says it disagrees with the current European model but is committed to greater integration. The group says it wishes to preserve the existence of national identities and opinions of its members while promoting a united platform of a “socially equitable, peaceful and sustainable European integration process based on solidarity.” It criticises the role the EU has currently played with its focus and support for market-oriented policies favouring competition which it claims increases inequality. The group calls for greater cooperation and agreement across Europe to deal with these issues.
Europe of Freedom and Democracy
The Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group is Eurosceptic organisation of rightist parties from across the European Union. The group is largely made up from the remnants of the now defunct Independence/Democracy and Union for a Europe of Nations groups. The group was largely made after its two predecessors suffered from poor results in the European Parliament elections – with the notable exception of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
UKIP form the largest part of the grouping with a total of 10 MEPs. However, the group also attracts 9 MEPs from the Italian Northern League. The group has a total of 34 MEPs from twelve member states.
The grouping is often described as ‘far-right’ and is the most hostile to the European project with parties such as UKIP encouraging a complete withdrawal from the European Union, a message which has gained support in some areas of Europe. According to the group they represent freedom and respect for Europe’s citizens and greater cooperation as sovereign states. The group also emphasises that there needs to be greater respect for Europe’s history and different cultural differences with an emphasis on the inviolability of borders. The group also says it rejects xenophobia, anti-Semitism and any other form of discrimination.
The final, and smallest group, in the European Parliament are the Non-Inscrits (NI) who represent a number of Members of the European Parliament who do not sit in the groups represented in the European Parliament. NI’s come from a number of political backgrounds including socialism and conservatism, but many come from far-right parties.
NI’s who currently sit in the European Parliament include members from prominent far-right parties including Jobbik party in Hungary, the Front National from France, representatives of the FPÖ from Austria as well as the British National Party.
The NI’s briefly formed a group named ‘Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty’ but this soon fell apart due to differences between the representatives.
By Greg Bianchi