European Conservatives and Reformists

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European Conservatives and Reformists
European Parliament group
European Conservatives and Reformists logo.png
Name European Conservatives and Reformists
English abbr. ECR[1]
Formal name European Conservatives and Reformists Group
Ideology Conservatism
Economic liberalism
European parties Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists
European Christian Political Movement
Associated organisations Movement for European Reform
New Direction
From 22 June 2009
To Present
Chaired by Martin Callanan
MEP(s) 57

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)[1] is a conservative,[2] anti-federalist[2][3] and Eurosceptic[2][4][5] political group in the European Parliament. The group currently comprises 57 MEPs, making it the fifth-largest group in the European Parliament.[6][7]

Founded after the June 2009 European elections, it is based on the Movement for European Reform. The largest parties in the group are the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, Law and Justice (PiS) and Poland Together (PRJG) of Poland, and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of the Czech Republic. Most of the member parties joined from the European Democrats section of the EPP-ED and the Union for Europe of the Nations.

In the media, the group is described as centre-right[8][9][10] to right-wing.[11][12][13] It is more eurosceptic[14] than the three largest groups, but less than the hard eurosceptic EFD. It is affiliated to the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists Europarty, but also includes the sole ECPM MEP.


The genesis of the ECR dates back to 2005, and possibly earlier. A political group in the European Parliament cannot be officially recognised if it contains MEPs from only a single member state. Instead, it must meet the minimum threshold required by the European Parliament's Rules of Procedure.[15][16] Any party seeking to create a group must therefore seek partners.

Origins: 2005 - 2006[edit]

In 2005, the UK Conservative Party held a leadership contest. At the time, Conservative MEPs sat in the European Democrats (ED), a subgroup of the larger EPP-ED group, which is dominated by the European People's Party (EPP). One leadership contender, David Cameron, argued for withdrawal of the Conservatives from EPP-ED and the formation of a new group. His opponent, David Davis, argued in a letter to The Daily Telegraph that the subgroup arrangement allowed the Conservatives to maintain suitable distance from EPP, while still having influence. MEP Martin Callanan responded in that paper the following day:

... David Davis (Letter, November 10) is sadly misinformed about our Conservative MEPs' relationship with the European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament. He claims that Conservatives are members of the European Democrat group, which forms an alliance with the EPP. In reality, though, the ED does not exist. It has no staff or money and is, in effect, a discussion group within the EPP.... Far from being a symbolic step, as Mr Davis suggests, leaving the EPP is the one hard, bankable commitment to have come out of this leadership campaign....

Cameron won the leadership election. Upon taking office as Conservative leader in December 2005, Cameron indicated that the launch of new group would be undertaken immediately.

In June 2006, Cameron, frustrated with delays, ordered Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague to ensure the new group was created by 13 July 2006.[17] However, when that date arrived, a new policy was announced: the new group would be delayed until after the 2009 elections.[18]

Movement for European Reform[edit]

In the interim, a pan-European alliance, called the Movement for European Reform (MER), would be formed and function outside the European Parliament.[19] The same day, the Polish Law and Justice and Civic Platform parties were identified as potential members of the new group. However, the latter stated that it would not leave the EPP, and the former stated that it planned to stay aligned to UEN.[20] The next day, Sir Reg Empey, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, suggested that the UUP might join the new group after the 2009 election.[21]

The Czech ODS was part of MER but its leader, Mirek Topolánek, did not rule out staying in EPP-ED.[22] Topolánek then attended the EPP Summit (a meeting of heads of state and government of the European People's Party) of 21 June 2007, adding speculation about the fragility of the new group.[23] The BBC speculated that the new group could become the third largest group in the Parliament with around 100 MEPs.[24]

In July 2008, the European Parliament raised the 2009 threshold for forming a group to 25 members and (more importantly) representing 7 countries, which raised some doubt about the viability of the new group.[25] Topolánek, after being re-elected President of the ODS on 7 December 2008, attended yet another EPP Summit, on 11 December 2008.[26]

2009 European Parliament elections[edit]

As the 2009 elections approached, Cameron, Topolánek, and Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden (a 'point-man' for the new group)[27] were looking for partners. The list of possible partners was kept secret:[28] as BBC News Europe editor Mark Mardell said,

... the Conservatives are being coy and say they won't tell us who their new chums are until after the election. My longstanding view has been that this was because they could not reach the desired numbers, but I have changed my mind. I think they will find enough new bedfellows, but that there is no need to invite them under the duvet until the votes are in.... There is no point linking up in advance with those who might fail, and no point alienating those who might do well....[29]

This did not stop speculation. People or parties that were rumoured to be possible partners in the new group included Law and Justice;[30][31][32] Lega Nord;[30][33] the Danish People's Party;[30][33] For Fatherland and Freedom,[28][30] Order and Justice,[30] the Pensioners' Party;[29] Order, Law and Justice;[27][34][35] Libertas;[36] Civic Union;[37] Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania,[37] ChristenUnie-SGP;[38] the independent Indrek Tarand;[37] and Lijst Dedecker's Derk Jan Eppink;[30][31] from member states such as the Czech Republic,[39][40] Poland,[39][40] Italy,[39] Sweden,[39] the Baltic and Balkan states,[39] Belgium,[40] and the Netherlands.[40] Speculation also considered the remnants of the Union for Europe of the Nations group, which was thought to be on the verge of collapse after the decision of Fianna Fáil and National Alliance to move to the ALDE and the EPP respectively.[41] Lajos Bokros, elected on the list of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) joined the group as the EPP did not want to accept him on pressure of the rival FIDESZ.

As time progressed, the new group was provisionally named the European Conservatives[32] (echoing the 1970s group of the same name), which was then changed to European Conservatives and Reformists.[42] The original estimates were firmed up to 84 MEPs,[30] then to approximately 60.[40] Frictions surfaced, as the ODS wanted the new group to have as many MEPs as possible, whilst the Conservatives wanted to disbar anti-immigrant parties in the new group, including the Danish People's Party and Lega Nord.[33]


On 22 June 2009, the first official list of the new group's members was released.[3] The same day, the Financial Times editorial was critical of the new group:

... Mr Cameron may also claim he is acting on the principle of defending UK sovereignty. But he is, in practice, jeopardising British influence on matters of international importance; the EU is now turning its focus to climate change and financial regulation. If Britain becomes a marginal player in the EU, London will lose influence not just in Brussels, but also in Washington; the “special relationship” relies on Britain being a cog in its own continent. For the UK, irrelevance in Europe means irrelevance everywhere....[43]

The next day, the Daily Telegraph editorial mused that the ECR should help to enfranchise anti-federalists across Europe and demonstrated David Cameron's leadership qualities.

... This development is to be welcomed on several levels. First, as Mr Cameron prepares for what is likely to be a Conservative government, it is important that people can believe he means what he says.... Second, it is a good thing that the millions who vote for non-federalist parties should have a group in the parliament to represent their interests. The existing centre-Right and centre-Left blocs both have integrationist ambitions, with all they entail - an EU army and police force, a common judicial area and a single UN seat for Europe. [The] people... have invariably said no... Power... needs to be repatriated, not surrendered further. The new body... will give the Tories more clout than if they had remained a small part of a much larger group.[44]

On 24 June, the group held its inaugural meeting, in which Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope was named interim leader.[45] Adam Bielan of PiS and Jan Zahradil of the ODS were named interim vice-chairmen.

At the first sitting of the Seventh European Parliament, on 14 July, outgoing Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering announced that applications from all new and returning groups had been received and approved, including ECR. The group then became eligible for EU funding, office space, and committee places appropriate for a group of its size.

ECR Chairman, Michał Kamiński

The first election for the group leadership was also scheduled for 14 July, pitting interim leader Kirkhope against fellow Briton Geoffrey Van Orden.[46] However, both Conservative leadership candidates were forced to forfeit the leadership in order to prevent it from falling apart, when then-Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott defied his party whip and stood for one of the vice-presidency posts despite pledges the previous week that Polish MEP Michał Kamiński would be backed for it. Kamiński's bid for Vice-President of the European Parliament subsequently failed, and the Poles threatened to abandon the new caucus unless Kamiński was made the group leader in the parliament.[47] Kirkhope went to an emergency meeting with the Poles in Strasbourg and proposed sharing the group leadership with the Pole; however, this was not accepted, and he had to step down as coalition leader, withdrawing in favour of Kamiński. McMillan-Scott, who is known to believe the Conservative's new allies in Poland are 'racist and homophobic', had the Conservative whip withdrawn in the European Parliament.[48][49] In March 2010, McMillan-Scott joined the Liberal Democrats and in the European Parliament, the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.[50]

Problems in the Law and Justice Party[edit]

Group chairman Kamiński left Law and Justice in November 2010, saying that the party had been taken over by far-right extremists. Kamiński and other Law and Justice MPs and MEPs formed a new Polish party, Poland Comes First, formed as a breakaway from Law and Justice following dissatisfaction with the direction and leadership of Jarosław Kaczyński. Kamiński initially remained of the group, but other Law and Justice MEPs argued he should step down.[51] On 15 December, rumours emerged that the eleven remaining PiS MEPs might leave the ECR and join the right-wing Europe of Freedom and Democracy group instead.[52]

In February 2011, Kamiński announced he would resign his chairmanship, effective 8 March, when a replacement would be elected. Former interim leader Timothy Kirkhope was said to be the front runner,[53] but lost the election to Jan Zahradil of the Czech Republic's ODS.[54] Zahradil has been in talks with other parties about joining the ECR.[55] In late March, David Cameron invited the moderate New Flemish Alliance to join the group.[56]

The May 2011 resignation of Silvana Koch-Mehrin, one of the fourteen Vice Presidents of the European Parliament, led to the ECR considering putting another candidate forward to take the position denied by McMillan-Scott's defection.[57] Conservative Party MEP Giles Chichester was nominated on 31 May, and was elected unopposed by the Parliament on 5 July 2011,[58] after the ALDE group to which Koch-Mehrin belongs failed to find a willing and suitable candidate.[59]

On 14 December 2011, a new leadership was elected, with Martin Callanan as President and Jan Zahradil, Geoffrey Van Orden, Ryszard Legutko, and Derk Jan Eppink as Vice-Presidents. On 26 December 2011, the four members of United Poland – who had split from Law and Justice in November – left the ECR to join Europe of Freedom and Democracy. On 17 January 2012, Czech Oldřich Vlasák replaced Chichester as the ECR's Vice-President of the Parliament.

Founding principles[edit]

The Prague Declaration was first proposed in 2003.

The last mixed group in the European Parliament was forcibly dissolved. Since then, groups have been required to demonstrate ideological coherence. This is usually done by publishing a document (sometimes called a constituent declaration) stating the principles to which each group member is expected to adhere. The constituent declaration of the ECR has become known as the Prague Declaration.[60] That document outlines the following principles:[61]

  1. Free enterprise, free and fair trade and competition, minimal regulation, lower taxation, and small government as the ultimate catalysts for individual freedom and personal and national prosperity.
  2. Freedom of the individual, more personal responsibility and greater democratic accountability.
  3. Sustainable, clean energy supply with an emphasis on energy security.
  4. The importance of the family as the bedrock of society.
  5. The sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to EU federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity.
  6. The overriding value of the transatlantic security relationship in a revitalised NATO, and support for young democracies across Europe.
  7. Effectively controlled immigration and an end to abuse of asylum procedures
  8. Efficient and modern public services and sensitivity to the needs of both rural and urban communities.
  9. An end to waste and excessive bureaucracy and a commitment to greater transparency and probity in the EU institutions and use of EU funds.
  10. Respect and equitable treatment for all EU countries, new and old, large and small.


The ECR has MEPs from eleven states, including four with more than one MEP (in dark blue) and seven with one MEP each (light blue).

The ECR has 57 Members of the European Parliament, representing eleven parties from eleven countries. The ECR draws the majority of its MEPs from Central Europe and the United Kingdom. It also has minor representation from the Baltic states, Benelux, Denmark, and Southern Europe.

Originally, it had been announced on 22 June 2009 that Hannu Takkula, MEP for the Finnish Centre Party (a European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party member party) would also be a member of ECR (with his two party colleagues remaining in ALDE), but he reversed this decision two days later.[62]

The membership was reduced to 54 when Edward McMillan-Scott was expelled from the group in July 2009. It increased to 55 again when Anna Rosbach joined the group in March 2011.[63] UKIP MEP David Campbell Bannerman rejoined the Conservative Party in May 2011, taking the group's tally to 56:[64] one larger than The Greens–European Free Alliance - an advantage that disappeared in June 2011. Anthea McIntyre was confirmed as the ECR's 57th MEP on 1 December 2011. United Poland, which had been founded by four defectors from Law and Justice – Zbigniew Ziobro, Tadeusz Cymański, Jacek Kurski, and Jacek Włosowicz (pl) – left the ECR for Europe of Freedom and Democracy on 26 December 2011. In March 2012, Conservative Roger Helmer defected to the UK Independence Party and also joined Europe of Freedom and Democracy; Marta Andreasen moved in the opposite direction, joining the Conservatives and the ECR from UKIP, in February 2013. In October 2012, Cristiana Muscardini joined the ECR, when she left Future and Freedom to found the Conservatives and Social Reformers. In April 2013, the ECR was joined by fellow Italian Susy De Martini, an independent who was formerly a member of the The People of Freedom. The newly elected Croatian MEP Ruža Tomašić of the Croatian Party of Rights dr. Ante Starčević joined the group when Croatia joined the EU in July 2013.[65] In November 2013, Poland Comes First dissolved itself, with three of its members joining the new Poland Together, which was also joined by Artur Zasada from the EPP: taking the group's number of MEPs to 57.

Party name Abbr. Member state MEPs Date joined Previous group Notes
Libertarian, Direct, Democratic LDD  Belgium 1 22 June 2009 N/A [3]
Croatian Party of Rights dr. Ante Starčević HSP-AS  Croatia 1 1 July 2013 N/A [65]
Civic Democratic Party ODS  Czech Republic 9 22 June 2009 EPP-ED [3]
Anna Rosbach (independent)  Denmark 1 9 March 2011 EFD [A]
Modern Hungary Movement MoMa  Hungary 1 21 April 2013 N/A [B][3]
Conservatives and Social Reformers CSR  Italy 1 October 2012 EPP [66]
Susy De Martini (Forza Italia)  Italy 1 April 2013 N/A
For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK TB/LNNK  Latvia 1 22 June 2009 UEN [3]
Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania AWPL  Lithuania 1 23 June 2009 N/A [67]
ChristianUnion CU  Netherlands 1 22 June 2009 IND/DEM [3]
Law and Justice PiS  Poland 6 22 June 2009 UEN [3]
Poland Together PRJG  Poland 4 N/A
Michał Kamiński (independent)  Poland 1 N/A
Mirosław Piotrowski (independent)  Poland 1 22 June 2009 N/A [E]
Conservative Party  United Kingdom 26 [68] 22 June 2009 EPP-ED [F][3]
Ulster Unionist Party UUP  United Kingdom 1 22 June 2009 EPP-ED [F][3]
^A Elected for the Danish People's Party.
^B Lajos Bokros was elected for the Hungarian Democratic Forum. MoMa was founded on 21 April 2013.
^C Elected for Law and Justice. Left to form new party on 16 November 2010.
^D Elected for Law and Justice. Left Law and Justice to join Poland Comes First on 16 November 2010. Left Poland Comes First on 18 March 2011.
^E Elected for Law and Justice. Left Law and Justice in January 2012.
^F Jim Nicholson was elected for the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists: an electoral alliance between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists. He is not counted in the Conservative Party total here.


The group is led by a seven-person executive.

Position Name Party
President Martin Callanan United Kingdom Conservative Party
Vice-President Derk Jan Eppink Belgium Libertarian, Direct, Democratic
Vice-President Ryszard Legutko Poland Law and Justice
Vice-President Geoffrey Van Orden United Kingdom Conservative Party
Vice-President Jan Zahradil Czech Republic Civic Democratic Party
Treasurer Hynek Fajmon Czech Republic Civic Democratic Party
Treasurer Emma McClarkin United Kingdom Conservative Party


Latvian Legion[edit]

The European Conservatives and Reformists group has faced criticism from sections of the British press for the association of Roberts Zīle and his party with annual Latvian Legion Day celebrations, which were argued to link Zīle to celebration of the Waffen-SS.[69] Roberts Zīle himself, the sole Latvian MEP in the ECR, has defended his party, stating that his party "has never justified Nazi war crimes or tried to glorify Nazi military units",[70] while British MEP Daniel Hannan addressed the criticism thus:

They don't "celebrate Waffen SS veterans". They attend an annual commemoration of all Latvia's war victims, a commemoration attended by every party in Latvia except the Russian ones. Let me repeat that: attended by every party in Latvia, from the Christian Democrats to the Greens.

Michał Kamiński[edit]

The charge that group leader, Michał Kamiński, was anti-Semitic first appeared in Britain when an article in the left-wing magazine, the New Statesman, reported Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, as criticising Kaminski for his membership of the National Revival of Poland during the Communist era. Schudrich subsequently criticised Macintyre's original article describing the accusation as a "grotesque distortion" of his words, saying that "Kaminski is a strong friend of the State of Israel" and that "portraying Kaminski as a neo-Nazi plays into the painful and false stereotype that all Poles are anti-Semitic."[71] Despite this, on being ejected from the Conservative Party, MEP Edward Macmillan-Scott accused Kaminski of having "anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links".[72]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]