Ask a punter in the street what they know about European political parties, and – unless you are in Brussels within walking distance of the EU institutions – they will probably draw a blank.
That’s hardly a surprise. National governments and political parties keep tight control over how European elections are contested and organised. With the Spitzenkandidat process stuck in a coma, along with transnational lists, that grip is getting even tighter.
It would be easy to say that they are irrelevant. But if the pan-European parties didn’t matter, then parties would not be clamouring to join them.
Last year a handful of parties from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova joined pan-EU parties. Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People was among those that joined the liberal ALDE party weeks before EU leaders gave Ukraine the green light to start the process of accession to the EU.
Joining forces with sister parties across Europe is the first stage of belonging and, for parties in countries where democracy and democratic freedom is under pressure, an important source of support.
However, with European elections one year away, EU ministers, led by the French government, are anxious about interference by proxies for Russia and China.
Negotiations on a re-cast of the statute for the European political parties have been deadlocked for months because ministers want to prevent them from receiving funding outside the EU.
That, say party officials in Brussels, would also mean that member parties from outside the bloc would be precluded from paying membership subs, holding party positions and make it almost impossible to hold campaign events or conferences outside the EU. They would no longer be able to be full members.
The parties, meanwhile, support the original proposal of the European Commission, which would allow party members from the 46 Council of Europe countries, provided that they sign a declaration stating that they adhere to EU values and the rule of law.
Few would dispute that the threat of foreign interference in EU politics and elections is real. The Qatargate bribery scandal has exposed just how easy it can be for a foreign government to buy influence in the EU institutions. Disinformation and propaganda campaigns directed by Moscow and Beijing are sophisticated and well-financed. But this looks like crushing a butterfly under a wheel.
“How can you welcome the party of Zelenskyy but then tell them that they can’t vote or stand,” an ALDE official told EURACTIV.
Kicking out non-EU parties from the UK to Ukraine would rob the EU of a small but significant lever in soft power and political integration at a time when the EU is trying to reinvigorate its enlargement process in the East and Western Balkans.
Party officials have told EURACTIV that ministers, led by the Swedish presidency, are determined not to budge on this point, but surely, there has to be a better, smarter way.
German yellow press is trying to shape the future European Media Freedom Act, and the European Parliament rapporteur is helping them, the president of the European Federation of Journalists, Renate Schroeder, told a conference in Brussels on Thursday (27 April).
In its pharmaceutical package proposal, the European Commission aims to simplify the regulatory framework for the development of new medicines and the repurposing of existing ones.
Europe’s efforts to adopt its construction and building sector and bring it more in line with climate and circular economy ambitions will entail a significant change in methodology instead of just using different materials than today.
Over the past ten years, treatments for multiple myeloma have progressed significantly, allowing French patients to live longer. However, much progress remains to be made, particularly in access to innovative drugs.
Finally, check out our Tech Brief: AI Act deal, very large online platforms designated and the Agrifood Brief: They had it coming.
Look out for…
- Second day of informal meeting of EU economy and finance ministers and central bank governors on Saturday.
[Edited by Alice Taylor/Zoran Radosavljevic]