Europarties Heading East. The Influence of Europarties on Central and Eastern European Partner Parties
The Eastern enlargement of the European Union was accompanied by the Eastern enlargement of the European party federations ("Europarties"). Until this time the Europarties exclusively consisted of West-European member parties. During their Eastern enlargement the Europarties searched for Central and Eastern European (CEE) partner parties on which they were expected to have exerted influence in terms of a "West-Europeanization". The research project aimed at answering the following questions: (1) How exactly influence was exerted by the Europarties, and (2) which relevant impact it really had on CEE parties and party systems.
The project concentrated on the two largest and most powerful Europarties, the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the European People's Party (EPP), and has selected the partner parties of Hungary, Slovakia and Romania as case studies. The study covered the years from 1989 to 2012 and used a "mixed-methods-design", which included content analyses of manifestos and party statutes, analyses of party documents, and elite interviews.
The central finding regarding the first research question is that both Europarties used two strategies to influence their CEE partners in terms of a "West-Europeanization", namely "conditionality" and "normative persuasion". Both strategies were created and applied in a complementary manner. Concerning the second research question the study showed that the result of Europarty influence was indeed a "West-Europeanization" of the CEE partner parties in three areas of party politics: strategies in party competition (party system dimension), election programmes (policy dimension), and intra-party democracy (intra-party dimension). As a result of Europarty influence the CEE partners performed “party changes" on all these dimensions.
The general finding of the study is that, during Eastern enlargement, the Europarties PES and EPP exerted strong influence on their CEE partner parties from Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, which led to a “West-Europeanization” of these parties on the party system dimension, policy dimension, and intra-party dimension. As a result, the CEE parties became more similar to West European member parties of PES and EPP.