Parties & politics of the European Parliament

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The European Parliament is made up of a series of “groups” which are comprised of smaller, multinational and national parties. The parliament sits in both Strasbourg and Brussels and is made up of a total of 751 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) as of 2014. They are elected through multiple different systems, varying from country to country. Some countries are subdivided into constituencies; France has 8, Britain has 12, Belgium 3 etc). However, all use broadly the Proportional Representation system, either through party lists (where the party compiles a list of candidates; if they win 30 seats, the top 30 are sent to the parliament) or through the single transferable vote method (where voters rank their candidates in order of preference). The current Commission has a majority, with the support of 476 of the seats. The Parliament takes part in the ‘Ordinary Legislative Procedure’, giving it on paper the same powers as the Commission and Council of the EU in the law-making process. It cannot table laws however, and has only recently been given its powers over the EU budget (2009) and election of the Commission President (2014). 

Groups in the European Parliament

GUE-NGL – The European United Left – Nordic Green Left make up the far left of the groups, sitting in the extreme left wing of the chamber and are in the opposition. Established in 1995 and with 52 MEPs from 14 nation-states, they are led by Gabriele Zimmer; an East-German and (ex) member of the Communist SED Party of the GDR. She is now a member of Die Linke; the far left party of Germany. They believe in the importance of tackling climate change, gender equality, defending workers’ rights and oppose the creation of an EU integrated military. They are made up of the Party of the European Left, the European Anti-Capitalist Left and the Nordic Green-Left Alliance as well as 10 other unaffiliated national parties, which includes Die Linke (Germany), Podemos (Spain) Syriza (Greece – ΣΥΡΙΖΑ) and Sinn Féin (Ireland) among others.

GUE-NGL website

Greens-EFA – The Greens-European Free Alliance is a leftist party sitting to the right of the S&D group, representing green party politics on the European level. They are a part of the opposition. Established in 1999, the party has 50 MEPs from 17 nations and are led by the German, Rebecca Harms (Bündnis 90-Die Grünen member) and Belgian, Phillipe Lamberts (member of Ecolo). The Party’s economic platform (known as the Green New Deal) is pro regulation of the financial markets, protection of social welfare and recognise the priority of social policy over economic policy. This implies going against the Brussels, pro-austerity consensus. Of course they support extensive campaigns to protect the environment and combat climate change, promoting a sustainable economy, switching to efficient and clean energy resources, protection of fundamental rights, prefer a diplomatic approach to foreign policy and would like to impose environmental regulation on food production. They are made up of the European Green Party, the European Free Alliance and 2 other unaffiliated national parties, as well as 2 independent politicians, which includes the Miljöpartiet De Gröna (Sweden)GroenLinks (the Netherlands) Europe Ecologie – Les Verts (France) and Lehet Más a Politika (Hungary), among others.

Greens-EFA website

 

S & D – The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats are the mainstream leftist party, sitting to the right of the GUE-NGL and not quite as extreme as them either. They form part of the Commission majority coalition. The modern group was established in 2009, and has 190 MEPs from all 28 nation-states of the EU – they are led by Italian, Gianni Pitella. Pitella was from a young age a member of the  Partito Socialista Italiano, and has since 1996 been involved in politics at the European level, now part of the Partito Democratico. The Party’s politics are a less austerity-centric economic policy, protection of workers’ and consumers’ rights, tackling climate change, European-level investment in education, protecting citizens’ democratic and fundamental rights, promoting European values around the world and equality across gender, sexuality and race. They are made up of the Party of European Socialists as well as 3 unaffiliated national parties, which includes the Labour Party (Britain) the SPD (Germany), the SPÖ (Austria) and the Parti Socialiste (France) among others

S&D website

 

ALDE – The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is the centre-left liberal party in European politics, sitting near the centre of the chamber, to the right of the Greens-EFA. They are one of the 3 Commission majority coalition parties. The current group was established in 2004, has 70 MEPs from 21 nations and are led by the Belgian, Guy Verhofstadt, ex-Prime Minister of Belgium and member of the Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten. ALDE is a strong backer of justice, equality and individuals’ rights – particularly their right to freedom. It also supports developing a clean and sustainable economy as well as tackling climate change, increasing the EU’s standing on the international stage and developing a coherent EU foreign policy, reforming the budget to allow the EU to be funded through an independent revenue stream, coordinated economic governance by the Commission, and financial regulations. They are made up of the ALDE Party of the same name, the European Democratic Party as well as 5 unaffiliated national parties, which includes the Liberal Democrats (Britain), Freie Demokratische Partei (Germany), Partido da Terra (Portugal), Det Redikale Venstre (Denmark), Movement for Rights & Freedoms (Bulgaria – Движение за права и свободи) and Akce nespokojených občanů (Czech Republic), among others.

ALDE website

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EPP – The European People’s Party is the centre-right mainstream conservative/Christian democrat party, sitting on the right half of the chamber, to the right of the ALDE Group. They are the largest group, form the third part of the Commission majority, and lead the Commission, their Spitzenkandidat Jean-Claude Juncker becoming Commission President in the 2014 elections. The current group was established in 2009 and has 216 MEPs from 27 nation-states. They are led by Manfred Weber, the German CSU member from Bavaria. The EPP’s priorities are a stronger EU influence in the world, including support of TTIP and wider trade between the EU and other countries in the world, a European defence union (EU Army), a tougher stance on immigration, austerity as a means to prosperity and a tougher stance on irregular immigration from outside the EU, as well as the distribution of refugees across member-states. The group is made up of the EPP of the same name, as well as one other unaffiliated national party, which includes the Partido Popular (Portugal)Nuovo Centrodestra – Unione di Centro (Italy)Partidul Naţional Liberal (Romania) and New Democracy (Greece – Νέα Δημοκρατία), among others.

EPP website

ECR – The European Conservatives and Reformists Group is a eurosceptic, anti-federalist right-wing party in the European parliament, and sit in the opposition, to the right of the EPP. The group was established in 2009, having 72 MEPs from 15 nation-states. They are led by Syed Kamall, a British member of the Conservative Party. Their main policy points are reducing the power at the European level, restricting the flow of powers to Brussels and returning them to the national parliaments, they support an austerity-led economic policy, cutting EU regulation and opening up free trade with nations outside the EU. The group is made up of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, the European Christian Political Movement as well as 1 unaffiliated national party and 2 independent politicians, which includes the Ulster Unionist Party (Britain)Sloboda a Solidarita (Slovakia)Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Poland) and Perussuomalaiset (Finland), among others.

ECR website

EFDD – The Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group is an extremely eurosceptic, populist right-wing party, sitting on the far-right of the chamber, to the right of ECR. They sit in opposition to the current Commission majority, and were established in 2014. With 42 MEPs from 7 nation-states, the group is jointly led by British UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and Italian member of the Movimento 5 Stelle, David Borelli. The group believes that legitimate democracy can only lie in the nation-states’ parliaments, oppose the creation of the European superstate, believe in the protection of the nation-states’ borders and national sovereignty and accept that there are differences between peoples and cultures which will be never overcome. The group is made up of the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe and one other unaffiliated national party, which includes the Partija Tvarka ir teisingumas (Lithuania), Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden), Petr Mach (Czech Republic) and the United Kingdom Independence Party (Britain), among others.

EFDD website

ENL – The Europe of Nations and Freedom Group  is the far-right, nationalist wing of the European Parliament, sitting on the furthest right extreme of the chamber. The group sits in opposition to the Commission majority. Established in 2015, the group has 39 MEPs (making it the smallest in the partliament) from 8 different nations, and is led by the French leader of Front National, Marine Le Pen and Dutchman and member of the Partij voor de Vrijheid, Marcel de Graaff. The group is xenophobic, anti-immigration, believes in the absolute legitimacy in the sovereignty and power of the nation state, and is thus incredibly eurosceptic. The Group is made up of the European Alliance for Freedom, the Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom, as well as 1 unaffiliated national party and 2 independent politicians, which includes Vlaams Belang (Belgium), Lega Nord (Italy)Partij voor de Vrijheid (the Netherlands), Front National (France) and the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Austria), among others.

This party is so backwards, it does not have a website.

The European Parliament Chamber in Strasbourg, France

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