A European political party, known formally as a political party at European level[1] and informally as a European party or a Europarty,[2] is a type of political party organisation operating transnationally in Europe and within the institutions of the European Union (EU).[note 1] They are regulated and funded by EU Regulation 1141/2014 on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations, and their operations are supervised by the Authority for European Political Parties and European Political Foundations (APPF). European political parties – mostly consisting of national member parties, and few individual members – have the right to campaign during the European elections, for which they often adopt manifestos outlining their positions and ambitions. Ahead of the elections, some of them designate their preferred candidate (known as Spitzenkandidat or lead candidate) to be the next President of the European Commission.

European parties' counterparts in the European Parliament are the Parliament's political groups.[3] European parties influence the decision-making process of the European Council through coordination meetings with their affiliated heads of state and government.[4] They also work closely with their members in the European Commission.

History

1970s

The first European political parties formed during the 1970s, in the run-up to the first elections of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage (adopted in 1976, and taking place for the first time in 1979). In 1973, following the enlargement of the European Community to Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, the enlarged Socialist congress met in Bonn and inaugurated the Confederation of the Socialist Parties of the European Community.[5] In March 1976, the Federation of Liberal and Democrat Parties in Europe was founded in Stuttgart by parties from Denmark, France, Germany Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.[6] A few months later, in July, party representatives from Belgium France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands meet in Luxembourg and found the European People's Party.[7]

1990s

In 1992, Section 41 of the Treaty of Maastricht[8] added Article 138a to the Treaty of Rome. Article 138a (the so called party article) stated that "Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union", thus officially recognising the existence of European political parties.

In 1997, the Treaty of Amsterdam[9] established who should pay for expenditure authorised by the party article (renumbered Article 191). This provided a mechanism whereby European parties could be paid out of the budget of the European Union, and European parties started to spend the money. Such expenditure included the funding of national parties, an outcome not originally intended.

2000–2003

In June 2000, the European Court of Auditors considered that the funding of European political parties should not be carried out using appropriations made for political groups in the European Parliament, as had long been the case.[10] This decision led the 2001 Treaty of Nice to add a second paragraph to Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (at the time, the "Treaty establishing the European Economic Community") to explicitly allow the funding of European political parties from the budget of the European Union.[11] The new paragraph stated that "the Council, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251, shall lay down the regulations governing political parties at European level and in particular the rules regarding their funding." The reference to "Article 251" refers to the co-decision procedure, which involves both the European Parliament and the Council as co-legislators.

In November 2003, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted Regulation 2004/2003 "on the regulations governing political parties at European level and the rules regarding their funding". Regulation 2004/2003 provided the first official definition of European political parties and created a framework for their public funding.[12]

This framework provided that, out of a total envelope for European parties, 15% would be distributed equally (the lump sum), and 85% would be distributed in proportion to each party's number of members of the European Parliament (MEP-based funding). Additionally, public funding could not exceed 75% of a European party's reimbursable expenditure (referred to as the "co-financing rate"); this means that European parties were required to raise 25% of their budget from specific private sources ("own resources"), such as donations or member contributions. Regulation 2004/2003 also introduced transparency obligations, limitations on donations, and prohibitions on spending, including a ban on the direct or indirect funding of national parties and candidates.[13]

2004–2007

The Regulation was later detailed by the Decision of the Bureau of the European Parliament of 29 March 2004[14] and amended by Regulation 1524/2007.[15]

In particular, Regulation 1524/2007 clarified the funding framework and changed the co-financing rate, allowing public funding from the general budget of the European Union to reach 85% of European parties' reimbursable expenditure. This change meant that European parties were only requested to provide 15% in private co-financing.

Regulation 1524/2007 also allowed European parties to set up affiliated European political foundations, separate entities contributing to the debate on European issues, organising conferences, and carrying out research, and linking like-minded national political foundations. Finally, the revised regulation explicitly allows European parties to finance campaigns conducted for elections to the European Parliament.

2014

In October 2014, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation 1141/2014, which replaced Regulation 2004/2003 and overhauled the framework for European political parties and foundations, including by giving them a European legal status.[16] It also established the Authority for the European political parties and European political foundations (APPF)[1], a standalone entity for the purpose of registering, controlling, and imposing sanctions on European parties and foundations.

Regulation 1141/2014 entered into force in 2017, and was fully applied starting in 2018. Since the entry into force of the Regulation, applications for public funding are placed with the APPF, but decisions on funding remain with the European Parliament.

2018–2019

In May 2018, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation 2018/673, which amended Regulation 1141/2014 by detailing provisions relating to the registration of political parties and foundations, and transparency regarding political programmes and party logos.[17]

Among others, Regulation 2018/673 introduced a number of changes, including the following:[18]

In March 2019, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation 2019/493, which further amended Regulation 1141/2014.[19] Changes focused mostly on the use of personal data by European political parties and foundations. The modalities of the implementation of the Regulation were later updated by the Decision of the Bureau of the European Parliament of 1 July 2019.[20]

2020s

In June 2021, in line with Article 38 of Regulation 1141/2014, MEPs Charles Goerens (ALDE) and Rainer Wieland (EPP) of the European Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) presented a draft report on the implementation of the Regulation. With regards to funding, the draft report called on the Commission and co-legislators to clarify the definition of indirect funding from European political parties and foundations to national member parties, remove the ban on financing referendum campaigns on European issues, allow the funding of European parties from non-EU national parties (which, following Brexit, meant that political parties in the UK could no longer finance European parties), broaden the categories of private funding, decrease European parties' co-financing rate, and simplify accounting procedures.[21]

In November 2021, the European Commission proposed a text for a new regulation aimed at replacing Regulation 1141/2021, using the recast procedure.[22] The Commission's document proposes a definition of political advertising, strengthens provisions on gender balance, clarifies the requirements for the display of the logo of the European political party by its member parties, and extends the obligation to comply with EU values to member parties. With regards to funding, this proposal retained the European Parliament's suggestion to lower European parties' co-financing rate (decreasing it from 10% down to 5%, and down to 0% in election years). It also included a new category of "own resources", allowing European parties to raise private funding from specific economic activities, such as seminar fees or publication sales; funding from this new category would be capped at 5% of European parties' budget. Finally, it proposed allowing European parties to receive contributions from national member parties located in non-EU members of the Council of Europe.[23] The European Parliament's AFCO Committee criticised the decision of the European Commission to opt for the recast method, which effectively limits discussions to the provisions of the Regulation which the Commission has decided to modify and prevents a wider review of the Regulation.[24]

In March 2022, the Council of the European Union adopted a political agreement (its own negotiating position).[25] In July 2022, the European Parliament's AFCO Committee adopted its own position, which was endorsed by the Plenary in September 2022.[24][26] Trilogues between the European Parliament, Council of the European Union, and European Commission took place in September, October and November 2022, and in March 2023, but did not reach an agreement.

Organisation

Registration

Article 3 of Regulation 1141/2014 lists the following criteria for an entity to register as a European political party with the APPF:[27]

Additionally, Article 4 imposes the following conditions regarding European parties' governance:[30]

Membership

European political parties are mostly made up of national member parties. Additionally, European citizens can become individual members of some European parties, depending on the provisions of those parties' statutes.

The count of MEPs for the purpose of European public funding is separate from the question of individual membership, as MEPs are considered "members of a European party" primarily if they are members of a European party's national member parties. As a result, many European parties have more MEPs than they have individual members.

Member parties

Main article: Table of political parties in Europe by pancontinental organisation

Individual members

There is no legal definition of what constitutes individual membership, leading European parties to define them differently. A common trait is their absence of, or limited, input in party decision-making; some parties comprise internal bodies representing individual members with a collective vote, others do not provide them with voting rights at all. Below is the number of individual members per European party, as reported by the European Parliament:[31]

Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on MediaWiki.org.

Funding

Main article: Funding of European political parties

European parties use public and private funding to finance their activities; public funding refers exclusively to funding from the general budget of the European Union, and cannot directly come from Member States or third countries, or entities under their control.

With regards to public funding, each year, the European Parliament allocates a total amount of money to fund European political parties qualifying for European public funding: 10% of this amount is distributed via a lump sum, allocated equally to all qualifying European parties, while 90% is distributed in proportion to each party's share MEPs.

In 2023, European political parties were allocated a total of €46 million. Depending on their own application for European public funding and on their amount of "reimbursable expenses", European parties may in fine receive less than their maximum allocation. European public funding accounts for the vast majority of European parties' income.

With regards to private funding, European parties mostly receive financial contributions from their national member parties, which, in turn, almost always receive public funding from Member States. Donations from legal persons and, especially, from individuals only play a limited role.

The APPF monitors donations and contributions to European political parties, and publishes a yearly list of political donors.

Sanctions

Article 6 of Regulation 1141/2014 empowers the APPF to impose sanctions on European parties, as detailed in Article 27.[32]

Framework

The APPF can deregister a European political party if: - it has been found guilty of engaging in illegal activities detrimental to the financial interests of the Union; - it no longer fulfils one or more of the registration criteria; - the decision to register the party was based on incorrect or misleading information; and - it has seriously failed to fulfil its obligations under national law .

The APPF can apply financial sanctions to a European party if: - it has failed to submit amendments to its statutes or an updated list of its member parties in due time; - it does not comply with its governance obligations; - it has failed to transmit the list of donors and their corresponding donations in due time; - it does not comply with its accounting or reporting obligations; - it is found guilty of engaging in illegal activities detrimental to the financial interests of the Union; - it has omitted information or provided false or misleading information; - it has abused the rules of personal data protection to influence elections to the European Parliament; - it has accepted unlawful donations or contributions; and - it has infringed on the prohibitions of funding.

Additionally, the European Parliament may exclude a European party from future public funding for up to 10 years if it has engaged in illegal activities detrimental to the financial interests of the Union, or has omitted information or provided false or misleading information.

Penalties

For "non-quantifiable infringements", the financial sanction ranges from 5 to 20% of the annual budget of the European political party, and 50% of its annual budget when it has engaged in illegal activities detrimental to the financial interests of the Union.

For "quantifiable infringements", the financial sanction ranges from 100 to 300% of the irregular sums received or not reported, up to a maximum of 10% of the party's annual budget.

Sanctions applied

In October 2023, the APPF sanctioned the Identity and Democracy Party for "intentionally providing incorrect information about its board composition to the public". The financial sanction applied amounted to 5% of the party's annual budget, or €47,021.[33][34]

European political parties

Registered European parties

As of February 2024, there are ten European political parties registered with the APPF:[35]

European political party Politics Members in
Name Abbr. Political Group President Secretary-General Founded Position Ideology European integration Commission Parliament Council
European People's Party EPP EPP Group Manfred Weber (DE) Thanasis Bakolas (GR) 1976 Centre-right Christian democracy,
Liberal conservatism[36]
Pro-Europeanism[37]
10 / 27
175 / 705
7 / 27
Party of European Socialists PES S&D Stefan Löfven (SE) Achim Post (DE) 1973 Centre-left Social democracy[36] Pro-Europeanism[37]
9 / 27
145 / 705
7 / 27
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party ALDE Renew Timmy Dooley (IE) and Ilhan Kyuchyuk (BG) Didrik de Schaetzen 1976 Centre Liberalism[36] Pro-Europeanism[37]
5 / 27
68 / 705
6 / 27
European Conservatives and Reformists Party ECR Party ECR Giorgia Meloni (IT) Antonio Giordano (IT) 2009 Right-wing Conservatism,
National conservatism[38][39]
Economic liberalism[36][40]
Soft Euroscepticism[37][41][42]
1 / 27
62 / 705
2 / 27
Identity and Democracy Party ID Party ID Gerolf Annemans (BE) 2014 Right-wing to far-right National conservatism, Right-wing populism[36] Euroscepticism[41]
0 / 27
59 / 705
0 / 27
European Green Party EGP Greens/EFA Mélanie Vogel (FR) and Thomas Waitz (AT) Benedetta De Marte (IT) 2004 Centre-left to left-wing Green politics[36] Pro-Europeanism[37]
0 / 27
52 / 705
0 / 27
Party of the European Left EL GUE/NGL Walter Baier (AT) 2004 Left-wing to far-left Democratic socialism,
Communism[36]
Soft Euroscepticism[42]
0 / 27
28 / 705
0 / 27
European Democratic Party EDP Renew François Bayrou (FR) Sandro Gozi (IT) 2004 Centre Centrism[36] Pro-Europeanism[43][44]
0 / 27
13 / 705
0 / 27
European Free Alliance EFA Greens/EFA Lorena López de Lacalle Arizti (ES) Jordi Solé (ES) 1981 Big tent Regionalism,
Separatism,
Ethnic minority interests[36]
Pro-Europeanism[37]
0 / 27
9 / 705
0 / 27
European Christian Political Movement ECPM ECR, EPP Group Valeriu Ghilețchi (MD) Maarten van de Fliert (NL) 2002 Centre-right to right-wing Christian right,
Social conservatism[36]
Soft Euroscepticism[37]
0 / 27
5 / 705
0 / 27

Former European parties

The entities below were formerly registered with the APPF.[45]

European political party Timeline Politics
Name Abbr. Founded Removed from register Ideology European integration Political Group
Alliance of European National Movements AENM 2009 2018[46] Ultranationalism
Right-wing populism[dubious ]
Hard Euroscepticism NI
Alliance for Peace and Freedom APF 1976 2018[47] Ultranationalism,[48] Neo-fascism[49] Hard Euroscepticism[37] NI

The entities below qualified at some point for European public funding; however, they were never registered with the APPF.

European political party Timeline Politics
Name Abbr. Founded Dissolved Received European public funding Ideology European integration Political Group
Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe ADDE 2014 2017 2015, qualified in 2016-17 but did not receive funding Direct democracy
National conservatism[36]
Right-wing populism[36]
Euroscepticism[36] Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy
Alliance of Independent Democrats in Europe ADIE 2005 2008 2006-2008 Right-wing populism
National conservatism[36]
Hard Euroscepticism[36] Independence and Democracy
Alliance for Europe of the Nations AEN 2002 2009 2004-2009 Conservatism
National conservatism[36]
Hard Euroscepticism[37] Union for Europe of the Nations
Coalition for Life and Family CVF 2016 Qualified in 2017 but did not receive funding Social conservatism
Political Catholicism
Nationalism
Reactionarism
European Alliance for Freedom EAF 2010 2016 2011-2016 Souverainism
Right-wing populism
Nationalism
Euroscepticism Europe of Nations and Freedom
European Alliance for Freedom and Democracy EAFD 2020 Populism Non-Inscrits
European Conservatives and Reformists
Europeans United for Democracy EUD 2005 2017 2006-2016, qualified in 2017 but did not receive funding Soft Euroscepticism[50] Euroscepticism[36] Independence and Democracy
European Conservatives and Reformists Party
The Left
Libertas 2008 2010 Qualified in 2009 but did not receive funding Anti-Lisbon Treaty Euroscepticism Europe of Freedom and Democracy
Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy MELD 2011 2015 2012-2015 National conservatism[36]
Right-wing populism[36]
Euroscepticism[36] Europe of Freedom and Democracy

Other political entities

The entities below never qualified for European public funding. Some of them refer to themselves as European parties, but they are not European political parties in the sense of Regulation 1141/2014.

Currently active organisations

Name Abbr. Founded Ideology Political Group Seats Notes
European Federalist Party EFP 2011 European federalism
Social liberalism
None
0 / 705
Organisation advocating European federalism
European Pirate Party PPEU 2014 Pirate politics
Freedom of information
Participatory democracy
Pro-Europeanism
Greens/EFA
4 / 705
Organisation of Pirate Parties
Animal Politics EU APEU 2014 Animal rights
Animal welfare
GUE/NGL
1 / 705
Organisation of animal rights parties
Europe–Democracy–Esperanto EDE 2003 Linguistic rights
Esperantism
None
0 / 705
Organisation advocating for the use of Esperanto as an official EU language
Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 DiEM25 2016 Pan-Europeanism
Post-capitalism
Progressivism
Democratic socialism
Environmentalism
Ecofeminism
Alter-globalization
None
0 / 705
Left-wing movement advocating alter-globalisation,[51] social ecology,[52] ecofeminism,[53] post-growth[54][55] and post-capitalism[56][57]
Volt Europa Volt 2017 European federalism
Social liberalism
Progressivism
Pro-Europeanism
Greens/EFA
2 / 705
Organisation of pro-European and European federalist political organisations and parties using the same name and branding in all EU member states and several non-EU states

Defunct organisations

Currently active alliances

Name Abbr. Founded Ideology Political Group Notes
The European Alliance of EU-critical Movements TEAM 1997 Euroscepticism GUE/NGL, Greens/EFA, ID Alliance of Eurosceptic or EU-critical associations, including NGOs and political parties
European Anti-Capitalist Left EACL 2000 Anti-capitalism
Socialism
Soft Euroscepticism
GUE/NGL Alliance of left-wing and anti-capitalist political parties
European Communist Action ECA 2023 Communism
Marxism–Leninism
Anti-capitalism
Euroscepticism
Anti-imperialism
Non-Inscrits Alliance of Marxist–Leninist parties, successor to the Initiative of Communist and Workers' Parties
Free Palestine Party[58] FPP 2024 Antizionism
Muslim minority interests
Turkophilia
None Alliance of Muslim minority political parties
Liberal South East European Network LIBSEEN 2008 Liberalism Renew Alliance of liberal parties and think tanks in South East Europe
Now the People NTP 2018 Democratic socialism
Eco-socialism
Left-wing populism
GUE/NGL Alliance of left-wing political parties
Cooperation Committee of the Nordic Worker's Movement SAMAK 1886 Social democracy S&D Alliance of social democratic parties and labour councils in the Nordic countries

Party Groups in the Nordic Council

The party groups of the Nordic Council, the official body for inter-parliamentary Nordic cooperation:

Name Abbr. Founded Ideology Political Group Nordic Council
Centre Group MG 1983 Liberalism
Christian democracy
Green politics
(Nordic) Agrarianism
Renew, Greens/EFA, EPP Group
24 / 87
Conservative Group Conservatism
Liberal conservatism
Economic liberalism
EPP Group
13 / 87
Nordic Freedom NF 2012 Right-wing populism
National conservatism
Euroscepticism
ECR, ID
8 / 87
Nordic Green Left Alliance NGLA 2004 Democratic socialism
Eco-socialism
Popular socialism
Socialism
Environmentalism
Feminism
Progressivism
GUE/NGL, Greens/EFA
11 / 87
The Social Democratic Group S-Norden Social democracy S&D
26 / 87

Defunct alliances

See also

Notes

  1. ^ By contrast, the term "political party in the EU" more often refers to a national political party in a Member State.
  2. ^ In turn, Article 1 defines a political party as "an association of citizens which pursues political objectives, and which is either recognised by, or established in accordance with, the legal order of at least one Member State".

References

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