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European Democrats

The European Democrats is a loose association of Conservative parties in Europe. It is a political group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. It was a political group (until 1992) and is a subgroup of EPP-ED (since 1992) in the European Parliament.

European Democrats in the European Parliament

1979-1992

The European Democratic Group (ED) was formed on 17 July 1979 by British Conservative, Danish Conservative and other MEPs after their success in the 1979 elections. It supplanted the earlier European Conservative Group.

In the late seventies and early eighties, the ED was the third-largest group in the Parliament.

However, the group saw its membership fall sharply in the late 1980s, as many centre-right members moved to the rival European People's Party group, dominated by the German CDU and the ideology of Christian democracy in general. The ED had been somewhat further from the political centre and less europhilic than the EPP. Largely isolated, even hardline eurosceptics like Margaret Thatcher conceded that the British Conservatives could not be effectively heard from such a peripheral group. On 1 May 1992 the ED (now largely composed of UK Conservative Party members) dissolved, and its remaining members were accorded "associated party" status in the EPP group; that is, being part of the parliamentary group without retaining actual membership in the EPP party organization. This was considered essential for the Conservatives, as the EPP was generally seen as quite favourable to European integration, a stance at odds with their core ideology.

1992-1999

The Conservatives' relationship to the EPP would become a sore point in the following years, particularly for the eurosceptic general membership in Britain. William Hague hoped to put the issue to rest by negotiating a new arrangement in 1999 by which the parliamentary group would rebrand itself as "EPP-ED", with the "European Democrat" nomenclature returning after a seven-year hiatus. This was intended to nominally underscore the Conservatives' status apart from the rest of EPP, and it was hoped that with the coming enlargement of the European Union numerous newly involved right-wing parties, averse to the EPP proper for its perceived eurofederalism, would be willing to instead enter the ED subgroup, growing the overall alignment.

1999-present

The arrangement proved to do little to appease opposition. Hague's successor, Iain Duncan Smith, made a concerted drive at one point to resurrect the European Democratic Group, but backed off when it became clear that Conservative MEPs would not move voluntarily. The hope that multiple Central and European parties would join ED also proved to be dubious, as only the Czech Civic Democratic Party took up the offer, with the remainder joining EPP proper or other groups such as Union for Europe of the Nations or Independence and Democracy.

Today, ED remains a more eurosceptic subgroup within the broader EPP-ED bloc that contributes slightly more than 10% of its total MEPs. It has thus far resisted the trend of incorporating as a European political party.

The future

During the 2005 Conservative leadership contest, eventual winner David Cameron pledged to withdraw the Conservatives from the EPP-ED coalition, while opponent David Davis argued in a letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph that the current ED arrangement allowed the Conservatives to maintain suitable distance from EPP while still having influence in the largest parliamentary grouping. Conservative/EPP-ED MEP Martin Callanan responded in that paper the following day:
SIR - 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.

It was reported that the Czech Civic Democratic Party, the Polish Law and Justice party and the French Rally For France party were interested in joining a breakaway group, formed under the Movement for European Reform. Sir Reg Empey, Leader of the UUP has committed his party to a new group Its position would be that the European Union should exist; however, it should be a looser supranational organisation than the current structure. This would make it more eurosceptic than the EPP, and less eurosceptic than the Union for Europe of the Nations and the Independence and Democracy group.

Some members from the above parties founded a new organization, the Alliance for an Open Europe, in the midst of this debate, with broadly similar objectives. It remains to be seem if what relationship would be anticipated between this body and a new Parliamentary group.

Member parties

Portugal

European Democrats in PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe)

The European Democrat Group is a political group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Sources

References

See also

External links

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