European Conservatives and Reformists: Wikis


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For previous related groups, see: European Conservatives and European Democrats.
European Conservatives and Reformists
European Parliament group
European Conservatives and Reformists logo.png
Name European Conservatives and Reformists
English abbr. ECR[1]
Formal name European Conservatives and Reformists Group
Ideology Conservatism,[2]
Economic liberalism, [2]
Euroscepticism, [2]
Associated organisations Movement for European Reform,
Alliance for Europe of the Nations
From 22 June 2009
To Present
Chaired by Michał Kamiński
MEP(s) 54

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)[1] is a eurosceptic,[3] Anti-federalist,[4] conservative political group in the European Parliament. The group currently comprises 54 members, making it the fifth-largest group in the European Parliament.[5] Founded after the June 2009 European elections, it is based on the Movement for European Reform.

The largest parties in the group are the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, Law and Justice (PiS) of Poland, and Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of the Czech Republic. In addition to these three parties, solitary MEPs, representing five other countries, are also members of the ECR. Most of the member parties joined from two collapsing groupings: the European Democrats section of the EPP-ED and the Union for Europe of the Nations.



Major players in the ECRG's formation: (L-R) Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Shadow Minister for Europe Mark Francois, David Cameron, Jarosław Kaczyński, and current group leader, Michał Kamiński.

The genesis of ECR dates back to 2005, and possibly earlier. A political group in the European Parliament cannot be officially recognised if it contains MEPs from only a single member state. Instead, it must meet the minimum threshold required by the European Parliament's Rules of Procedure.[6][7] Any party seeking to create a group must therefore seek partners.

Origins: 2005 - 2006

In 2005, the UK Conservative Party held a leadership contest. At the time, Conservative MEPs sat in the European Democrats (ED), a subgroup of the larger EPP-ED group, which is dominated by the European People's Party (EPP). One leadership contender, David Cameron, argued for withdrawal of the Conservatives from EPP-ED and the formation of a new group. His opponent, David Davis, argued in a letter to the The Daily Telegraph that the subgroup arrangement allowed the Conservatives to maintain suitable distance from EPP, while still having influence. MEP Martin Callanan responded in that paper the following day:

... David Davis (Letter, November 10) is sadly misinformed about our Conservative MEPs' relationship with the European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament. He claims that Conservatives are members of the European Democrat group, which forms an alliance with the EPP. In reality, though, the ED does not exist. It has no staff or money and is, in effect, a discussion group within the EPP.... Far from being a symbolic step, as Mr Davis suggests, leaving the EPP is the one hard, bankable commitment to have come out of this leadership campaign....

Cameron won the leadership election. Upon taking office as Conservative leader in December 2005, Cameron indicated that the launch of new group would be undertaken immediately.

In June 2006, Cameron, frustrated with delays, ordered Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague to ensure the new group was created by 13 July 2006.[8] However, when that date arrived, a new policy was announced: the new group would be delayed until after the 2009 elections.[9]

Movement for European Reform

In the interim, a pan-European alliance, called the Movement for European Reform (MER), would be formed and function outside the European Parliament.[10] The same day, the Polish Law and Justice and Civic Platform parties were identified as potential members of the new group. However, the latter stated that it would not leave the EPP, and the former stated that it planned to stay aligned to UEN.[11] The next day, Sir Reg Empey, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, suggested that the UUP might join the new group after the 2009 election.[12]

Mirek Topolanek

The Czech ODS was part of MER but its leader, Mirek Topolánek, did not rule out staying in EPP-ED.[13] Topolánek then attended the EPP Summit (a meeting of heads of state and government of the European People's Party) of 21 June 2007, adding speculation about the fragility of the new group.[14]

The BBC speculated that the new group could become the third largest group in the Parliament with around 100 MEPs.[15]

In July 2008, the European Parliament raised the 2009 threshold for forming a group to 25 members and (more importantly) representing 7 countries, which raised some doubt about the viability of the new group.[16] Topolanek, after being re-elected President of the ODS on 7 December 2008, attended yet another EPP Summit, on 11 December 2008.[17]

2009 European Parliament elections

As the 2009 elections approached, Cameron, Topolanek, and Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden (a 'point-man' for the new group)[18] were looking for partners. The list of possible partners was kept secret:[19] as BBC News Europe editor Mark Mardell said,

... the Conservatives are being coy and say they won't tell us who their new chums are until after the election. My longstanding view has been that this was because they could not reach the desired numbers, but I have changed my mind. I think they will find enough new bedfellows, but that there is no need to invite them under the duvet until the votes are in.... There is no point linking up in advance with those who might fail, and no point alienating those who might do well....[20]

This did not stop speculation. People or parties that were rumoured to be possible partners in the new group included Law and Justice;[21][22][23] Lega Nord;[21][24] the Danish People's Party;[21][24] For Fatherland and Freedom,[19][21] Order and Justice,[21] the Pensioners' Party;[20] Order, Lawfulness, Justice;[18][25][26] Libertas;[27] Civic Union;[28] Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania,[28] ChristenUnie-SGP;[29] the independent Indrek Tarand;[28]; and Lijst Dedecker's Derk Jan Eppink;[21][22] from member states such as the Czech Republic,[30][31] Poland,[30][31] Italy,[30] Sweden,[30] the Baltic and Balkan states,[30] Belgium,[31] and the Netherlands.[31] Speculation also considered the remnants of the Union for Europe of the Nations group, which was thought to be on the verge of collapse after the decision of Fianna Fáil and National Alliance to move to the ALDE and the EPP respectively.[32]

As time progressed, the new group was provisionally named the European Conservatives[23] (echoing the 1970s group of the same name), which was then changed to European Conservatives and Reformists.[33] The original estimates were firmed up to 84 MEPs,[21] then to approximately 60.[31] Frictions surfaced, as the ODS wanted to the new group to have as many MEPs as possible, whilst the Conservatives wanted to disbar anti-immigrant parties in the new group, including the Danish People's Party and Lega Nord.[24]


On 22 June 2009, the first official list of the new group's members was released.[4] The same day, the Financial Times editorial was critical of the new group:

... Mr Cameron may also claim he is acting on the principle of defending UK sovereignty. But he is, in practice, jeopardising British influence on matters of international importance; the EU is now turning its focus to climate change and financial regulation. If Britain becomes a marginal player in the EU, London will lose influence not just in Brussels, but also in Washington; the “special relationship” relies on Britain being a cog in its own continent. For the UK, irrelevance in Europe means irrelevance everywhere....[34]

The next day, the Daily Telegraph editorial mused that the ECR should help to enfranchise anti-federalists across Europe and demonstrated David Cameron's leadership qualities.

... This development is to be welcomed on several levels. First, as Mr Cameron prepares for what is likely to be a Conservative government, it is important that people can believe he means what he says.... Second, it is a good thing that the millions who vote for non-federalist parties should have a group in the parliament to represent their interests. The existing centre-Right and centre-Left blocs both have integrationist ambitions, with all they entail - an EU army and police force, a common judicial area and a single UN seat for Europe. [The] people... have invariably said no... Power... needs to be repatriated, not surrendered further. The new body... will give the Tories more clout than if they had remained a small part of a much larger group.[35]

On 24 June, the group held its inaugural meeting, in which Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope was named interim leader.[36] Adam Bielan of PiS and Jan Zahradil of the ODS were named interim vice-chairmen.

At the first sitting of the Seventh European Parliament, on 14 July, outgoing Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering announced that applications from all new and returning groups had been received and approved, including ECR. The group then became eligible for EU funding, office space, and committee places appropriate for a group of its size.

ECR Chairman, Michał Kamiński

The first election for the group leadership was also scheduled for 14 July, pitting interim leader Kirkhope against fellow Briton Geoffrey Van Orden.[37] However, both Conservative leadership candidates were forced to forfeit the leadership in order to prevent it from falling apart, when Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott defied his party whip and stood for one of the vice-presidency posts despite pledges the previous week that Kamiński would be backed for it. Kamiński's bid for Vice-President of the European Parliament subsequently failed, and the Poles threatened to abandon the new caucus unless Kamiński was made the group leader in the parliament.[38] Kirkhope went to an emergency meeting with the Poles in Strasbourg and proposed sharing the group leadership with the Pole; however, this was not accepted, and he had to step down as coalition leader, withdrawing in favour of Michał Kamiński. McMillan-Scott, who is known to believe the Conservative's new allies in Poland are 'racist and homophobic', had the Conservative whip withdrawn in the European Parliament.[39][40]

Constituent declaration

The Prague Declaration was first proposed in 2003.

The last mixed group in the European Parliament was forcibly dissolved. Since then, groups have been required to demonstrate ideological coherence. This is usually done by publishing a document (sometimes called a constituent declaration) stating the principles to which each group member is expected to adhere. The constituent declaration of the ECR has become known as the Prague Declaration. That document outlines the following principles:[41]

  1. Free enterprise, free and fair trade and competition, minimal regulation, lower taxation, and small government as the ultimate catalysts for individual freedom and personal and national prosperity.
  2. Freedom of the individual, more personal responsibility and greater democratic accountability.
  3. Sustainable, clean energy supply with an emphasis on energy security.
  4. The importance of the family as the bedrock of society.
  5. The sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to EU federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity.
  6. The overriding value of the transatlantic security relationship in a revitalised NATO, and support for young democracies across Europe.
  7. Effectively controlled immigration and an end to abuse of asylum procedures
  8. Efficient and modern public services and sensitivity to the needs of both rural and urban communities.
  9. An end to waste and excessive bureaucracy and a commitment to greater transparency and probity in the EU institutions and use of EU funds.
  10. Respect and equitable treatment for all EU countries, new and old, large and small.


The ECR's draws the majority of its MEPs from Central Europe and the United Kingdom. It also has minor representation from the Baltic states and Benelux countries. It is weakest in both Southern Europe and the Nordic countries, where it currently has no members.

Membership as of 19 September 2009

The membership as of 19 September 2009 was as follows:[4]

Party name


Party name

Member state


Date joined

Previous group

List Dedecker LDD Lijst Dedecker  Belgium 1 02009-06-22 22 June 2009 None [4]
Civic Democratic Party ODS Občanská demokratická strana  Czech Republic 9 02009-06-22 22 June 2009 EPP-ED [4]
Hungarian Democratic Forum MDF Magyar Demokrata Fórum  Hungary 1 02009-06-22 22 June 2009 EPP-ED [4]
For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK TB/LNNK Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK  Latvia 1 02009-06-22 22 June 2009 UEN [4]
Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania LLRA Lietuvos Lenkų Rinkimų Akcija  Lithuania 1 02009-06-23 23 June 2009 None [42]
ChristianUnion CU ChristenUnie  Netherlands 1 02009-06-22 22 June 2009 IND/DEM [4]
Law and Justice PiS Prawo i Sprawiedliwość  Poland 15 02009-06-22 22 June 2009 UEN [4]
Conservative Party
Ulster Unionist Party
Conservative Party
Ulster Unionist Party
 United Kingdom 26 02009-06-22 22 June 2009 EPP-ED [4][43]

Originally, it had been announced on 22 June 2009 that Hannu Takkula, MEP for the Finnish Centre Party (a European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party member party) would also be a member of ECR (with his two party colleagues remaining in ALDE), but he reversed this decision two days later.[44]

The ECR has MEPs from eight countries, including three with more than one MEP (in dark blue) and five with one MEP each (light blue).

The membership was reduced to 54 when McMillan-Scott was expelled from the group in July 2009.


The group is led by a twelve-person executive, with representatives of all parties.

Position Name Party
Chairman Michał Kamiński Poland Law and Justice
Deputy Chairman Timothy Kirkhope United Kingdom Conservatives
Vice Chairman Jan Zahradil Czech Republic Civic Democrats
Vice Chairman Adam Bielan Poland Law and Justice
Member of the Bureau Lajos Bokros Hungary Hungarian Democratic Forum
Member of the Bureau Derk Jan Eppink Belgium Lijst Dedecker
Member of the Bureau Ryszard Legutko Poland Law and Justice
Member of the Bureau Peter van Dalen Netherlands ChristianUnion
Member of the Bureau Roberts Zīle Latvia For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK
Member of the Bureau Valdemar Tomaševski Lithuania Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania
Treasurer Hynek Fajmon Czech Republic Civic Democrats
Treasurer Philip Bradbourn United Kingdom Conservatives


Latvian Legion

The European Conservatives and Reformists group has faced criticism from sections of the British press for the association of Roberts Zīle and his party with annual Latvian Legion Day celebrations[45] which were argued to link Zīle to Nazi sympathisers or celebration of the Waffen-SS.

Roberts Zīle himself, the sole Latvian MEP in the ECRG, has defended his party, stating that his party "has never justified Nazi war crimes or tried to glorify Nazi military units", [46] while Daniel Hannan addressed the criticism thus:

They don’t “celebrate Waffen SS veterans”. They attend an annual commemoration of all Latvia’s war victims, a commemoration attended by every party in Latvia except the Russian ones. Let me repeat that: attended by every party in Latvia, from the Christian Democrats to the Greens.


Rabbi Michael Schudrich

The charge that group leader, Michał Kamiński, was anti-Semitic first appeared in Britain when New Statesman article reported Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, as saying:

"It is clear that Mr Kamiński was a member of the NOP, a group that is openly far-right and neo-Nazi." Asked about the Tories' new alliance with Kamiński, the chief rabbi said: "Anyone who would want to align himself with a person who was an active member of NOP and the Committee to Defend the Good Name of Jedwabne, which was established to deny historical facts of the massacre..., needs to understand with what and by whom he is being represented."

Schudrich subsequently criticised Macintyre's original article describing the headline as "misleading and untrue" and stated that "Kaminski is a strong friend of the State of Israel".[47].


Departing MEP, Edward Scott-Macmillan accused Kaminski of having "anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links", while Valdemar Tomaševski has voted consistently in favour of new laws against what he considers the promotion of homosexuality in education. Representatives of ECRG member party Law and Justice have instituted bans on a number of gay pride marches while in power in Poland.[48]

The defence of ECR MEPs' views on homosexuality has been of two general types; either it has been argued that the policies pursued are largely justified and proportionate, or that the leadership of the ECR has been willing to appear at gay pride events, and is opposed to state interference in sexual relationships.[citation needed]


Lech Kaczyński cropped.png

Record under Communism

British Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague has pointed out that while ECRG members such as Alexandr Vondra and Lech Kaczynski (shown right) were prepared to go to prison as part of the struggle for democracy, "two of Labour’s allied Euro-MPs have been named by the official Polish Institute of National Remembrance as collaborators with the communist secret police."[49]

Anti-Eastern Europeanism

The severity of the attacks on the Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK party from David Miliband, the left-wing press and BBC have led even the socialist foreign minister, Māris Riekstiņš, to complain to the British Ambassador about the treatment and portrayal of Eastern Europeans in the British media.

Meanwhile, a number of senior figures on the left of British politics have pointed out that this attempt to attack the British Conservatives constitutes slanderous treatment on democratic allies in Eastern Europe.[50]


British Conservative blogs and right-wing press have been quick to point out that the Party of European Socialists contains 9/11 deniers, ex-terrorists, anti-Semites, and those convicted of corruption and procuring sexual favours for political office.[51] Dan Hamilton detailing individual socialist MEPs against whom criticism has been leveled opined that "Labour’s choice of partners includes an MEP who was interned by the Irish Government for his involvement in the IRA, Italian conspiracy theorists, a party connected with the PKK terrorist movement in Turkey, and a Polish party whose position on homosexuality is more extreme than anything which has been expressed by Law and Justice."[52][53]

See also


  1. ^ a b "ECR formation: press release", 22 June 2009
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ Conservatives lose leadership of new Eurosceptic grouping in EU | Politics | The Guardian
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Conservative MEPs form new group". BBC. 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  5. ^ "New Tory European group: Dave pulls it off". 2009-06-22. 
  6. ^ "Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament, 7th parliamentary term - July 2009, Rule 30: Formation of political groups" 1 July 2009, from
  7. ^ "Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament, 16th edition - March 2009, Rule 29: Formation of political groups" 6 April 2009, from
  8. ^ Kite, Melissa (11 June 2006). "Cameron gives Hague month to get MEPs out of Brussels group". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-09-28. 
  9. ^ Kubosova, Lucia (13 July 2006). "Plans to form new MEP group kicked into 2009". EUobserver. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  10. ^ "Cameron Euro declaration". BBC News. 2006-07-13. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  11. ^ Mulvey, Steven (13 July 2006). "Q & A: The Tories and the EPP". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  12. ^ "Could the UUP be ready to leave the European Democrats?". The Belfast News Letter. 2006-07-14. 
  13. ^ "Will Mirek really leave the EPP-ED?". EUobserver. 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  14. ^ "16 Heads of State meet at an EPP summit". European People's Party. 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  15. ^ "The Tories and their EU allies". BBC News. 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2007-07-11. 
  16. ^ "European Parliament increases threshold to form a political group". European Parliament. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  17. ^ "EPP calls on the EU for a solution for ratification of the Lisbon Treaty". European People's Party. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  18. ^ a b "EU Conservatives Stand Firm behind Bulgaria's Order, Law and Justice Party". Novinite. 2009-04-05. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  19. ^ a b "Those exceptional British". The Economist. 26 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  20. ^ a b Mardell, Mark (24 March 2009). "Tories look for new partners". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Taylor, Simon (12 March 2009). "UK Conservatives to leave the EPP-ED". European Voice. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  22. ^ a b Moszynski, Piotr (2009). "La rupture conservatrice" (in French). Radio France International. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  23. ^ a b Smyth, Jamie (13 March 2009). "Tories to set up new parliamentary group". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  24. ^ a b c "Tory party upsets Czech partners with choice of anti-federalist MEPs". London: Times Online. 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  25. ^ "UK Conservative Party Leader Cameron Welcomes Bulgaria Opposition MP Yanev". Novinite. 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  26. ^ Hix, Simon, Michael Marsh and Nick Vivyan (2009-04-23). "Predict 09 - Analysis by Member State - Bulgaria". Burson-Marsteller. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  27. ^ "New conservative group to rock next Parliament". 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  28. ^ a b c Traynor, Ian (2009-06-09). "David Cameron on track to form alliance of Eurosceptics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  29. ^ "EU vote: CU/SGP may link to Conservatives". 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  30. ^ a b c d e Grossman, David (10 March 2009). "The Tories' European dilemma". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  31. ^ a b c d e Banks, Martin (25 March 2009). "UK Tories 'well on track' to forming new EU grouping". Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  32. ^ Connolly, Niamh (15 March 2009). "FF to join liberal Euro group next month". The Sunday Business Post. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  33. ^ Charter, David (2009-05-15). "David Cameron’s new European allies set to include odd bedfellows". London: The Times. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  34. ^ "Neutered Tories". Financial Times. 24 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  35. ^ "Defying the doubters". The Daily Telegraph. 23 June 2009. 
  36. ^ Banks, Martin (25 March 2009). "Tory MEP voices 'real concern' over new European grouping". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  37. ^ Banks, Martin (9 July 2009). "British Tories fight it out for leadership of new Eurosceptic group". Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  38. ^ Tories give up EU parliamentary leadership of Eurosceptic group | Politics |
  39. ^ "Conservatives expel MEP after row over right-wing bloc". The New Statesman. 15 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  40. ^ "McMillan-Scott hits back at allegations of disloyalty". 15 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  41. ^ "Prague Declaration and Principles". 2009-06-22. 
  42. ^ Uhlig, Dominik (2009-06-22). "Polak z Litwy we frakcji PiS [A Pole from Lithuania in the Law and Justice fraction]" (in Polish).,75478,6744379,Polak_z_Litwy_we_frakcji_PiS.html. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  43. ^ 1 MEP, Jim Nicholson who was a UUP MEP since 1989 was elected jointly in Northern Ireland as Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force.
  44. ^ NewsRoom Finland
  45. ^
  46. ^ To call us Nazi sympathisers is absurd
  47. ^ Rabbi clarifies Kaminski comments
  48. ^
  49. ^ William Hague: How David Miliband tries to smear me
  50. ^ David Miliband should apologise to the Peoples of Poland and Latvia
  51. ^ Labour's Evil Friends
  52. ^ Labour’s unsavory allies
  53. ^ The Labour Party should put their own house in order before trying to smear the Conservatives as racist by association

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