Adieu EPPIt was one of David Cameron’s major pledges: to take the Conservative MEPs out of the European People’s Party – European Democrats (EPP-ED) group in the European Parliament. I wrote about this back in December 2005 [post is here]. But as you see from the amount of time that has elapsed, Cameron has not made much progress. He’s sent William Hague off to Brussels a few times to talk to ODS from Czech Republic, the eurosceptic party of Václav Klaus, and Law & Justice from Poland, best known for their policies opposing gay rights marches in Warsaw. You need parties from 5 countries to form a political group, and Cameron was hence a long way off.

Anyway, the eurosceptic lobby in the Tory Party, have now launched their Adieu EPP campaign – their effort to get Cameron to deliver on his pledge. Strangely, I don’t know what to make of this. While I love the fact that the Tories are squirming about Europe once more, it is really stupid that we alwyas have this fight in Britain about whether the country should be in the EU or not. It’s actually in Britain’s interests, and the EU’s interests, that the Tories have a decent relationship with the EPP, just as Labour should have a decent relationship with the PES. No sensible notion of transnational party politics is likely to happen if the EU’s 3rd largest Member State is not really involved. I feel my stomach wrench when I write that as it’s so pleasant to look at the Tories in a moment of confusion, but Britain needs to improve its realtionship with the EU and – on balance – that’s more important and the Tories should stay in the EPP.

CLARIFICATION in light of comments posted here: the Conservatives are talking about leaving the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament. The UK Conservatives are in the ED (European Democrats) part of the EPP-ED, together with ODS of the Czech Republic and some others – see this page about the European Democrats. The European People’s Party, a transnational political party, does not count the UK Conservatives among its members – its website is here. Hence strictly speaking, the website to which this post originally refers should actually be called Adieu EPP-ED. Hope that’s clear!

8 Comments

  1. You are not really right about Topolanek. Despite having paid lip service to the usual ODS line and described the EU Constitution as “shit” on one occasion (in English) he is a pragmatic politician will little real interest in European integration. Czech right-wing media report that Topolanek and others are fed up with the shennagins around Adieu EPP and that there is a split with arch eurosceptic and ODS EP faction leader Jan Zahradil. Klaus is now semi-detached from ODS as President and has a more independent – not to say idiosyncratic take on foreign and European affairs than his party and sometimes they diverge completely (e.g. on Iraq – Klaus very anti, most of ODS very pro-American)

  2. I know Klaus is not the leader. And indeed the blog entry does not say he is the leader! He still happens to be – beyond the Czech Republic – the best known person in the ODS. That’s why I mentioned him.

    The leader is Topolanek, but he still shows some degree of determination to work with the UK Conservatives in the European Parlaaiment, so he can’t be exactly pro-EU.

  3. Valeri

    Vaclav Klaus is NOT the leader of the ODS. The current ODS leadership is considerably less Eurosceptic than Klaus.

  4. Hang on. It’s important here to distinguish between the EPP-ED as a political group in the European Parliament (which is quite a broad church as it includes, for example, the PP from Spain as well as the PiS party from Poland, not to mention the UK conservatives), and the EPP as a European political party, which is narrower, and more explicitly federalist in orientation. The UK conservative party to my recollection has never been in the EPP, although some individuals in the Conservative party have had affinities to it on an individual basis. Cameron is talking about leaving the EPP-ED – that really is the political wilderness. Even not being in the EPP is slightly problematic from the perspective of UK influence because it means he does not go to pre-European Council leaders’ meetings.

  5. Daniela

    Well I tend to agree with Manu on most of the points he raised as regards the EPP. I’ve heard many negative comments about the EPP and them being “conservative” (an adjective which I honestly and truly hate, because, what does that mean anyway??), while the party I vote for, the Christian Democrats is the one which is pro-EU, pro-liberalisation and definitely does not fit the negative stigma I get to hear about the EPP. I think in all honesty it’s the British Tories, and the far-right parties of the EPP which are the exception, rather than the vast majority of moderate Christian Democrat parties. So if they don’t fit in the groupings, they should definitely move off to find or create something more akin to their political standing ….

  6. Emmanuel Vallens

    Mmh… One of the many problems of Europe is that its so-called “European parties” are riddled by the discrepancies between the position of its members. Those policial groupings hardly have a coherent standing on major political issues and they remain divided along national lines. Originally, the EPP was to be a Christian-Democrat federalist-inspired party. With the UMP in France (the UDF having left the boat) and the Tories in the UK, it is quite hard for me to see what clear message the EPP could ever convey.

    Much the same could be said about the PES and its components: after all, isn’t the British Labour Party closer to the “conservative” (whatever that means) UMP in France than to the Parti Socialiste?

    So, if national parties managed to unite along clear ideological differences rather than strategical thinking to have a pro forma majority in the European Parliament, which would not correspond to any actual political common standpoints, I wouldn’t be unhappy. And if the Tories’ withdrawal is to go in that direction, that’s fine with me. Rather have a eurosceptic party out of the EPP than in…

    This being said, of course I’d rather have a pro-European British Opposition. But if it is to adopt a nein-sager stance, better do it out of the EPP than in.

    As for Britain’s relationship to Europe, when comparing it to France’s, I really wonder which one is best. Being eurosceptic from the outset or having this hypocritical stance of pretending to speak for and in the name of Europe, be a federalist country and flail with all the grand principles and visions while actually undermining the whole integration process by voting no to the Constitution, systematically violating EU rules or pandering to the lowest populist instincts and gutt-feelings of the population, always prone to bash “Brussels” for anything that goes wrong?

    Quite frankly, the British position is in many way much healthier than the French one. At least we know were we stand from the start…

    Manu
    (at present in a pessimistic mood)

  7. Manu! If you are in a pessimistic mood about this I am quite worried. It’s normally me being pessimistic.

    I agree with many of the points – there’s just one I disagree with. It’s about Labour and the PES. The relationship between the Labour MEPs and the Socialist Group in the European Parliament has improved quite a bit recently as far as I can tell, while in terms of national parties and Blair’s approach the tendency seems to be opposite. And while Labour might be on one side of the PES, the Parti Socialiste is very much at the opposite side of the PES! 😉

  8. Robert

    I noticed from their website:

    “As we have seen time and time again across Europe, silence proves the breeding ground for despair, and that itself is the precursor for extremism.”

    If Euroscepticism isn’t a classic form of extremism I don’t know what is. They tick a lot of the right boxes: distort the truth, blame foreigners for our problems, etc. Plus they’re the sort who would want to forge closer ties with the USA who they consider to be our ‘natural partners’, not realising that it’s a totally unequal relationship – in the EU we’re one of equals (more so, if you consider voting weights) but with the US we would always be the inferior partner and the relationship would last only as long as we were considered strategicly ‘useful’.

    That’s why I’m sad about our country’s attitude towards Europe.

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