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Research project

The EPP Group and inter-party relations in the European Parliament 1952-2024

From consociationalism to adversarial politics

This project has received funding from the Wilfried Martins Centre for European Studies

This project aims at tracing the evolution and dynamics of party relations in the European Parliament (EP) throughout its history and with particular focus on the role of the EPP Group. Overall European Union (EU) electoral trends and developments in several member States (MS) suggest that we may be at a crucial turning point, possibly marking a transition from a long period of convergence of the major political groups in the EP to the forming of counter opposed, ideologically based, coalitions. This could in turn favour the beginning of a new phase of adversarial politics in the EU, which may ultimately be beneficial for the politicisation of EU government and for the development of EU democracy. The prevalently consociational nature of the EP party system is in fact considered as hindering at EU level of the government-opposition dynamics that are typical of Western democracy.

This research combines approaches derived from history and political science. Drawing on the literature about the party system’s core, it traces the historical origins of the EP political groups relations in the non-elected Parliament and investigate the strategic, political and ideational reasons for the creation of an informal cooperation between the EP’s largest political groups (EPP and PES) after the 1979 elections, with a particular emphasis on the EPP’s role in its conception and development. Subsequently, the research assesses the mechanisms that led to the core’s consolidation and widening (to ALDE, now Renew Europe, and, at least since 2009, Greens/EFA), as well as to its possible weakening.

In view of what currently appears to be a potential turning point, the project then identifies the policy areas in which a sufficient convergence of positions already exists amongst the potential partners of alternative coalitions in the EP, such as those that could be created by an understanding between the EPP and Conservative or even Sovereignist political groups or parties.

The research relies on different types of sources: the archives of the political groups, which are available for consultation at the Historical Archives of the European Union (HAEU) or in Brussels; interviews with former and current MEPs, as well as EP and groups’ officials; EU official documentation and data. Agreement indices (AI) calculated on the basis of roll-call data in EP plenary votes, and of a representative sample of votes in committees, will be used to measure and assess the convergence of the groups, and possible divergences, especially in non-institutional policy areas.

The purpose of this project is thus to create the basic factual knowledge needed for informed pre- and post-election analysis. This is necessary because, while the role of the EP in the overall EU institutional balance has been extensively studied, there are not yet many studies focusing on EP political groups and their relations.

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