Parties and Democracy in the European Union: Euro-Parties as New Democratic Intermediaries?

Research question/goal: 

The goal of the research project was to investigate the importance of transnational European party federations, the Europarties. They have so far received less attention as actors in the European multi-level system EU than national parties. Nonetheless, the changes of the institutional framework in the 1990s, above all the strengthening of the European Parliament and the formal recognition and financing of the European parties have suggested that the importance of the Europarties in the EU political process has grown and will continue to do so. A comprehensive, empirical comparative study of all major Europarties aimed at going beyond the references contained in the literature (mostly case studies) and wanted to establish the functions these actors are, in theory, capable of fulfilling. Also, it wanted to investigate to what extent these actors actually perform these functions. Furthermore, the project sought to answer the question to what extent Europarties, being international federations of national intermediary organisations, can make a contribution to the development of a European intermediary space. The empirical analysis took place on the basis of a mixture of methods combining document analysis and oral interviews. In all, 44 party statutes and 55 transcribed thematic interviews (on average 1-1.5 hours in length) with leading actors of the Europarty head offices in Brussels, in the parliamentary groups of the European Parliament, and in the parties and parliamentary groups of the member states were carried out. They were complemented by 38 short interviews with Europarty conference delegates. These were combined in a data set and, with the help of the programme MaxQda, coded and qualitatively evaluated. The analysis shows that the overall importance of the Europarties has in fact grown in the 1990s. However, the potential for further growth differs substantially between individual party functions. The classical party functions turned out to be less important in pointing the way forward, for in this respect the Europarties still remain “teethless tigers” which face strong institutional limitations. Their greatest contribution lies with the provision of a network which offers a framework for regular meetings of national party leaders and a platform for organisational and programmatic cooperation. In this way, the Europarties contribute to the Europeanisation of the national parties. And in this sense, they provide the structural preconditions for contributing to the formation of a European intermediary space.

Fact sheet

2001 to 2006
Data Sources: 
party documents, interviews, analysis of literature
Geographic Space: