European political parties – an ill-conceived system

3 February 2019

European political parties – an ill-conceived system

Once every five years they awake, the European political parties, in the runup to the European elections. They choose their lead candidates and in a number of cases draw up 'platforms' the planks of which must be adopted by all of the affiliated national parties in their own European election manifestos. In the lead candidates, whose goal is to become Commission president, we have little interest, but neither would we like to think that our election manifesto was being determined in part by a European party of this kind. We'd rather leave that to our members. That's what's known as democracy, something which is missing from these European parties, most of which allow only national parties to be members, not individuals, a strange construction indeed.

The SP is not a member of a European political party. If we were, our representatives would attend its meetings. Standpoints would be laid down and the SP delegation would return with a number of agreed proposals which we'd have no right to change. This would be a pity for our manifesto commission which has for months been working on its draft, but it would be even worse for the branches which would have no right to put forward amendments. This is for us unthinkable, but it's fixed practice for other parties, if they are affiliated to a European political party.

If as a citizen of a member state you could join one of the European political parties, that would at least represent a direct form of influence, though even then it would be strange to see a Dutch party having to allow its election manifesto to depend in part on such a European manifesto. In the political group to which we are affiliated in the European Parliament there are great differences, for example over the European funds. Because we are a confederal group whose members are not obliged to follow a single line, we can get along despite these differences. But let's say the European Political Party, the European Left, were in favour, by majority vote, of an enormous increase in the EU budget. This would mean that we would have to adopt this position and include it in the SP election manifesto, even though in our opinion an end should be put to the pumping of money back and forth between Brussels and the member states. National differences fall by the wayside in European parties,despite these often being essential to the voters.

The system of European political parties, which are also funded to a large extent by the European Parliament, provides a small snapshot of what's wrong in the EU. Frantically holding on to the idea that there is a single European people is deepening the cleft between the elite and the 'gilets jaunes'. The SP is a supporter of European cooperation but is allergic to diktats, even when they come from a friendly European political party.

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