European Conservatives and Reformists
|European Conservatives and Reformists|
|European Parliament group|
|Name||European Conservatives and Reformists|
|Formal name||European Conservatives and Reformists Group|
|European parties||Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists
European Christian Political Movement
European Free Alliance
|Associated organisations||Movement for European Reform
|From||22 June 2009|
|Chaired by||Syed Kamall|
The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) is a conservative, anti-federalist and moderately Eurosceptic political group in the European Parliament. Following the 2014 European elections, the ECR is the third-largest group in the European Parliament.
Founded after the June 2009 European elections around the Movement for European Reform, the ECR is the parliamentary group of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists Europarty, but also includes three MEPs affiliated with the European Christian Political Movement and four from the European Free Alliance. The largest parties in the group are the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, Law and Justice of Poland, and Alternative for Germany. Member parties have joined from many different parliamentary groups, including from the European Democrats section of the EPP-ED, the Union for Europe of the Nations, the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, and The Greens-European Free Alliance.
- 1 Founding principles
- 2 History
- 3 Membership
- 4 Leadership
- 5 Cohesion
- 6 Criticism
- 7 See also
- 8 Footnotes
- 9 External links
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. That document outlines the following principles:
- 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.
- Freedom of the individual, more personal responsibility and greater democratic accountability.
- Sustainable, clean energy supply with an emphasis on energy security.
- The importance of the family as the bedrock of society.
- The sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to EU federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity.
- The overriding value of the transatlantic security relationship in a revitalised NATO, and support for young democracies across Europe.
- Effectively controlled immigration and an end to abuse of asylum procedures
- Efficient and modern public services and sensitivity to the needs of both rural and urban communities.
- An end to waste and excessive bureaucracy and a commitment to greater transparency and probity in the EU institutions and use of EU funds.
- Respect and equitable treatment for all EU countries, new and old, large and small.
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. Any party seeking to create a group must therefore seek partners.
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. Martin Callanan MEP 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. However, when that date arrived, a new policy was announced: the new group would be delayed until after the 2009 elections.
Movement for European Reform
In the interim, a pan-European alliance, called the Movement for European Reform (MER), would be formed and function outside the European Parliament. 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. 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. In the event of the election, the Ulster Unionist Party ran under the banner of the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists, an electoral alliance between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists.
The Czech ODS was part of MER but its leader, Mirek Topolánek, did not rule out staying in EPP-ED. 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. The BBC speculated that the new group could become the third largest group in the Parliament with around 100 MEPs.
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. Topolánek, after being re-elected President of the ODS on 7 December 2008, attended yet another EPP Summit, on 11 December 2008.
2009 European Parliament elections
As the 2009 elections approached, Cameron, Topolánek, and Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden (a 'point-man' for the new group) were looking for partners. The list of possible partners was kept secret: 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....||”|
This did not stop speculation. People or parties that were rumoured to be possible partners in the new group included Law and Justice; Lega Nord; the Danish People's Party; For Fatherland and Freedom, Order and Justice, the Pensioners' Party; Order, Law and Justice; Libertas; Civic Union; Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, ChristenUnie-SGP; the independent Indrek Tarand; and Lijst Dedecker's Derk Jan Eppink; from member states such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Sweden, the Baltic and Balkan states, Belgium, and the Netherlands. 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. 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 (echoing the 1970s group of the same name), which was then changed to European Conservatives and Reformists. The original estimates were firmed up to 84 MEPs, then to approximately 60. 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.
|“||... 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....||”|
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.||”|
On 24 June, the group held its inaugural meeting, in which Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope was named interim leader. 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.
The first election for the group leadership was also scheduled for 14 July, pitting interim leader Kirkhope against fellow Briton Geoffrey Van Orden. 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. 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. 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.
Problems in the Law and Justice Party
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. 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.
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, but lost the election to Jan Zahradil of the Czech Republic's ODS. Zahradil has been in talks with other parties about joining the ECR. In late March, David Cameron invited the moderate New Flemish Alliance to join the group.
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. Conservative Party MEP Giles Chichester was nominated on 31 May, and was elected unopposed by the Parliament on 5 July 2011, after the ALDE group to which Koch-Mehrin belongs failed to find a willing and suitable candidate.
On 14 December 2011, a new leadership was elected, with Martin Callanan as Chairman and Jan Zahradil, Geoffrey Van Orden, Ryszard Legutko, and Derk Jan Eppink as Vice-Chairmen. 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.
2014 European Parliament elections
Ahead of the 2014 European Parliamentary elections there was a certain amount of speculation about the stability of the ECR, with the possibility that the Polish Law and Justice might seek another grouping. Most pundits thought the grouping would survive, with several new parties speculated to be looking into joining the group. Parties thought to be mulling applications for the grouping included the Alternative for Germany, Danish People's Party, Finns Party and New Flemish Alliance, Bulgaria Without Censorship and also some Croatian members. Slovakia's Freedom and Solidarity party represented by Richard Sulík was also reported to be considering joining the group, due to close links to the Alternative for Germany. The prospect that Forza Italia or the Hungarian Fidesz might also be tempted to move from the EPP to the ECR was raised, as they have adopted more eurosceptic profiles. Breitbart.com suggested the apparent willingness to accept applications from more nationalistic and anti-immigrant parties than in the 2009-2014 term was to form a bigger group, and thus receive more funds, than the United Kingdom Independence Party, who came first in the European election in Britain. The Financial Times suggested that if the ECR accepted all of the potential members it could receive an additional €6 million a year in funding.
On 4 June 2014, ECR accepted applications from the Danish People's Party (4 MEPs) and the Finns Party (2 MEPs) from the EFD group, as well as the Family Party of Germany, both Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) and New Majority (NOVA) from Slovakia, and the Independent Greeks. Alternative for Germany and Bulgaria Without Censorship were admitted on 8 June, followed by the Dutch Reformed Political Party on 16 June and the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) on 18 June.
N-VA's choice to join the ECR was controversial in Belgium. Guy Verhofstadt, the ALDE leader and former Prime Minister of Belgium, who is himself Flemish, had hoped to attract the N-VA to join his group, and entered extensive negotiations with the party to facilitate the move. However, N-VA party members voted by a wide margin to join the ECR, instead; 70 voted to join the ECR, and just three to join ALDE. Fellow Flemish European politician Karel De Gucht, the European Commissioner for Trade, called the vote "a dirty trick, the way this decision was made", and referred to the N-VA's choice as "harmful for Belgium". De Gucht went on to say: "It is an important political fact because, for the first time, a leading Belgian party decides to join a Eurosceptic group. Traditionally, all big Belgian parties [...] have supported further European integration." It has been observed that over the preceding four years, the N-VA had gradually become more Eurosceptic, making the ECR the most natural fit for its previously Europhile outlook. The N-VA's decision was all the more important because it meant the ECR overtook ALDE as the third biggest group, assuming the role of "kingmakers" in the new parliament. On 23 June, Irish Fianna Fáil (FF) MEP Brian Crowley joined from the ALDE grouping, but without the permission of his party, who removed the whip the following day. FF leader Micheál Martin was reportedly "infuriated" at Crowley's joining the ECR, calling it "totally unacceptable", while FF chief whip Seán Ó Fearghaíl referred to the ECR as a "crowd of headbangers". On the same day, IMRO – Bulgarian National Movement joined, taking the group to 70 MEPs.
The ECR has 70 Members of the European Parliament, representing nineteen parties and one independent MEP, from across fifteen countries. The ECR draws the majority of its MEPs from northern and central Europe.
After the 2014 election, twelve new parties joined.
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.
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. UKIP MEP David Campbell Bannerman rejoined the Conservative Party in May 2011, taking the group's tally to 56: 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. 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. In 2014, Mirosław Piotrowski rejoined Law and Justice, and sought reelection in 2014 under that party's banner.
|Party name||Abbr.||Member state||MEPs||Date joined||Previous group||Notes|
|Libertarian, Direct, Democratic||LDD||Belgium||1||22 June 2009||N/A||Failed to re-elect MEPs at the 2014 election.|
|Anna Rosbach (Independent)||Denmark||1||9 March 2011||EFD||Originally elected for the Danish People's Party. Did not stand for re-election at the 2014 election.|
|Modern Hungary Movement||MoMa||Hungary||1||21 April 2013||N/A||Lajos Bokros was elected for the Hungarian Democratic Forum. MoMa was founded on 21 April 2013. Did not stand for re-election at the 2014 election.|
|Conservatives and Social Reformers||CSR||Italy||1||October 2012||EPP||Failed to re-elect MEPs at the 2014 election.|
|Susy De Martini (Forza Italia)||FI||Italy||1||April 2013||N/A||Did not stand for re-election at the 2014 election.|
|Poland Comes First||PJN||Poland||3||November 2010||ECR||Elected for Law and Justice. Left to form new party on 16 November 2010. Merged with Poland Together in December 2013. Failed to re-elect MEPs at the 2014 election.|
|Poland Together||PRJG||Poland||4||December 2013||ECR||Elected for Law and Justice. Created in December 2013 and merged with Poland Comes First. Failed to re-elect MEPs at the 2014 election.|
|Michał Kamiński (Independent)||Poland||1||22 June 2009||N/A||Left Law and Justice to join Poland Comes First on 16 November 2010. Left Poland Comes First on 18 March 2011. Re-elected for Civic Platform, a member of the European People's Party.|
The ECR is led by a Chairman, currently Syed Kamall of the British Conservative Party.
There have been five Chairmen of the European Conservatives and Reformists group:
|24 June 2009||Timothy Kirkhope||Conservative Party|
|14 July 2009||Michał Kamiński||Law and Justice/Poland Comes First|
|8 March 2011||Jan Zahradil||Civic Democratic Party|
|14 December 2011||Martin Callanan||Conservative Party|
|12 June 2014||Syed Kamall||Conservative Party|
In addition to the Chairman, the ECR is lead by three Vice-Chairmen and a wider Bureau, including the leader of each national delegation represented in the ECR.
According to calculations by Vote Watch Europe, the ECR group had a cohesion rate of 86.65% in parliamentary votes during the 7th session (2009–14). This is slightly lower than in the four pro-European groups, but higher than in the European United Left–Nordic Green Left and far higher than in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy groups. Internal cohesion was highest in votes on constitutional and inter-institutional affairs (94.79%), international trade, and industry, research & energy. The greatest divergence within the group was in decisions on regional development (70.53% cohesion), agriculture, and development (cooperation). The parties that were most loyal to the group (meaning that they voted with the majority of ECR members the most often) were the UK Conservatives (97.51%), the Ulster Unionist Party and the Czech Civic Democratic Party. The members who deviated from the ECR majority the most often were the individual MEPs Andreasen from the UK (who had switched over from EFD group only in 2013; 61.20% loyalty), Muscardini from Italy, and Rosbach (who had crossed over from EFD in 2011).
||This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (July 2014)|
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. 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", 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.
The charge that former 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." Despite this, on being ejected from the Conservative Party, MEP Edward McMillan-Scott accused Kaminski of having "anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links". In the 2014 European elections, Michał Kamiński stood with the Polish Civic Platform, a member of the centrist European People's Party.
Morten Messerschmidt and Jussi Halla-aho
The ECR’s unanimous decision in June 2014 to admit the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party and Finns Party as members was criticised because one MEP from each party has a criminal conviction. Morten Messerschmidt, lead candidate for the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, was convicted in 2002 for publishing material that appeared to suggest that there is a link between a multiethnic society and rape, violence and forced marriages. Jussi Halla-aho, a Finns Party MEP, was convicted in 2012 after writing a 2008 blog entry which claimed that Islam "reveres paedophilia". However, Syed Kamall, the ECR's Chairman, who is a practising Muslim, defended the new members, telling the Financial Times:
"The Danish People’s party is on a political journey. It now has a policy of controlled immigration and disagrees with those on the left who would allow uncontrolled immigration and benefit tourism [...] There is a clear distinction that the left-wing media often fails to make between a party that wants to control immigration and one that seeks to demonise immigrants. The DPP is the former."
Kamall also defended Halla-aho, telling the Finnish Broadcaster YLE:
"I sat down with him when I saw that issue [blog controversy] reported, I looked him in the eye and I said ’tell me about this’. I was satisfied by his explanation. [...] we don’t look at their past, we want to look at where we’re moving forward. They want to be a mainstream party and we are happy to help with that."
Fellow British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan commented on Messerschmidt: "Would you want to be judged on something you did in your 20s? [...] if the Danish electorate move on and decide he is a mainstream popular politician, it seems a bit unfair that the rest of us shouldn't make that same judgement".
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