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A European political party, formally a political party at European level, informally (especially in academic circles) a Europarty, is a type of political party organization operating transnationally in Europe and in the institutions of the European Union. They are regulated and funded by the European Union and are usually made up of national parties, not individuals. Europarties have the exclusive right to campaign during the European elections and express themselves within the European Parliament by their affiliated political groups and their MEPs. Europarties, through coordination meetings with their affiliated heads of state and government, influence the decision-making process of the European Council. Europarties also work closely and coordinate with their affiliated members of the European Commission and, according to the Lisbon Treaty the Europarty that wins the European elections has the right to nominate to the Council its candidate for President of the European Commission.
Section 41 of the Treaty of Maastricht added Article 138a to the Treaty of Rome. Article 138a (later renumbered to Article 191) stated that "Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union." So the concept of a "political party at European level" was born.
Article J.18 and Article K.13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam established who should pay for expenditure authorised by Article 138/191 within certain areas. This provided a mechanism whereby Europarties could be paid for out of the European budget, and the Europarties started to spend the money. Such expenditure included funding national parties, an outcome not originally intended.
Article 2, section 19 of the Treaty of Nice added a second paragraph to Article 191 of the Treaty of Rome. That paragraph stated that "The Council, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251, shall lay down the regulations governing political parties at European level and in particular the rules regarding their funding." The reference to "Article 251" refers to co-decision, which meant the European Parliament had to be involved. So Europarty funding had to be regulated by the Council and the European Parliament, acting together.
Regulation (EC) No 2004/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 defined what a "political party at European level" actually was and specified that funding should not go to national parties, either directly or indirectly. This meant that European money should stay at the Europarty level and, as a result, the nascent Europarties started to organise themselves on a more European basis instead of acting as a mechanism for funding national parties.
That regulation was later heavily amended by the Decision of the Bureau of the European Parliament of 29 March 2004 and by other amendments, the latest of which is Regulation (EC) No 1524/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2007 These amendments tightened up the procedures and funding and provided for the earlier-floated concept of a "political foundation at European level". This meant that the Europarties can set up and fund legally separate affiliated think-tanks (the Eurofoundations) to aid them, although funding national parties remains forbidden. The revised regulation also gives Europarties the exclusive responsibility to campaign for the European elections and can use their funds for this purpose (their corresponding political groups of the European Parliament are strictly forbidden to campaign).
As of 1 November 2008, the regulation governing Europarties is Regulation (EC) No 2004/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003, as later amended under codecision (see above). According to that regulation's European Commission factsheet, for a party to become a Europarty it must meet the following criteria:
Their total funding for 2008 is €10.6 million, with a further €5 million for the foundations.
|European People's Party||Christian democrats and conservatives|
|Party of European Socialists||social democrats and democratic socialists|
|European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party||liberals and centrists.|
|European Free Alliance||pro-devolution, independentist.||Usually parties representing national minorities.|
|European Green Party||greens.|
|Alliance for Europe of the Nations||Eurosceptics and nationalists.|
|Party of the European Left||socialists and communists.|
|European Democratic Party||centrists, European integrationists.|
|Alliance of Independent Democrats in Europe||Eurosceptics, nationalists.||Now defunct|
In January 2008, leaders of far-right parties from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and France announced plans to launch a far-right Europarty by 15 November, provisionally called the European Patriotic Party, Patriotic European Party or European Freedom Party.
It was reported on 1 November 2008 that Declan Ganley had registered a company in Dublin called the Libertas Party Ltd and that it was intended to "carry on the business of a European political party". Libertas applied for Europarty recognition which was briefly granted but then suspended following the disavowal of two of its candidates.
All current Europarties are mostly made up of national parties: people who are members of member parties automatically become members of the Europarty unless they choose otherwise. Additionally, people can become individual members of the Europarty without having to join a national party first (e.g. Marian Harkin, who is an individual member of the European Democratic Party).
Europarty funding goes to Europarties and stays with Europarties: the funding cannot be used for the funding of other political parties and in particular national political parties. National political parties disinclined from joining Europarties are thereby disadvantaged. 25 Members of the European Parliament petitioned the European Court of Justice, arguing that this contravened the EU's stated values of pluralism and democracy. The case was rejected after eighteen months. A closely related case fought by the French Front National, the Italian Lega Nord, and the Belgian Vlaams Blok (now Vlaams Belang) was appealed and rejected..