European Conservatives and Reformists

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For previous related groups, see European Conservatives and European Democrats.
European Conservatives and Reformists
European parliamentary group
European Conservatives and Reformists logo.png
Name European Conservatives and Reformists
English abbr. ECR[1]
French abbr. ECR
Formal name European Conservatives and Reformists Group
Ideology Euroscepticism
Anti-federalism[2]
Conservatism
Economic liberalism[2]
European parties Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists[3]
Associated organisations Movement for European Reform
New Direction
From 22 June 2009[4]
To present
Chaired by Syed Kamall
MEP(s)
74 / 751
Website www.ecrgroup.eu

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)[1] is a Eurosceptic[5][6][7][8][9] and anti-federalist[4][5][10] political group in the European Parliament. The ECR is the parliamentary group of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) European political party, but also includes MEPs from four other European parties and thirteen MEPs without European party affiliation.

The ECR was founded around the Movement for European Reform after the 2009 European elections at the behest of British Conservative Party leader David Cameron. During the Seventh European Parliament (2009–14), the ECR had 55 MEPs, making it the joint fourth-largest group. After the 2014 European elections, the party accepted thirteen new member parties, increasing group membership to 71 MEPs and making it the current third-largest group in the European Parliament.

The group is considered centre-right[11][12][13][14] to right-wing.[15][16][17][18] The largest parties in the group by number of MEPs are the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom and Law and Justice (PiS) of Poland.

Founding principles[edit]

The Prague Declaration was first proposed in 2003.

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.[19][20] Any party seeking to create a group must therefore seek partners. 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:[21]

  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.

History[edit]

Origins: 2005–06[edit]

In 2005, the British Conservative Party held a leadership contest. During the sixth term of the European Parliament, Conservative Party MEPs sat in the European Democrats (ED), a subgroup of the European People's Party–European Democrats (EPP-ED) group, which is dominated by the European People's Party (EPP). Leadership contender David Cameron argued for withdrawal of the Conservatives from EPP-ED and the formation of a new group. Upon taking office as Conservative leader in December 2005, Cameron indicated that the launch of a new group would be undertaken immediately. In June 2006, Cameron ordered then-Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague to ensure the new group was created by 13 July 2006.[22] However, when that date arrived, it was announced that the launch of the new European Parliament group was delayed until after the 2009 elections.[23]

Movement for European Reform[edit]

In the interim, a pan-European alliance, called the Movement for European Reform (MER), was founded and functioned outside of the European Parliament.[24] The same day, the Law and Justice and Civic Platform parties of Poland were identified as potential members of the new group: However, Civic Platform stated that it would not leave the EPP, and the Law and Justice stated that it planned to stay aligned to UEN.[25] The next day, Sir Reg Empey, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), suggested that the UUP could join the new group after the 2009 election.[26] In the event of the election, the UUP ran under the banner of the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists, an electoral alliance between the Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionists.

The Czech Civic Democratic Party (ODS) was part of MER but its leader, Mirek Topolánek, did not rule out staying in EPP-ED.[27] 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.[28]

In July 2008, the European Parliament raised the 2009 threshold for forming a group to 25 members and representing 7 member states.[29] Topolánek, after being re-elected President of the ODS on 7 December 2008, attended yet another EPP Summit, on 11 December 2008.[30]

2009 European Parliament elections[edit]

As the 2009 European elections approached, Cameron, Topolánek, and Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden (a 'point-man' for the new group)[31] were looking for partners. The list of possible partners was kept secret.[32]

People or parties that were rumoured to be possible partners in the new group included Law and Justice;[33][34][35] Lega Nord;[33][36] the Danish People's Party;[33][36] For Fatherland and Freedom,[32][33] Order and Justice,[33] the Pensioners' Party;[37]> Order, Law and Justice;[31][38][39] Libertas;[40] Civic Union;[41] Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania,[41] ChristianUnion-SGP;[42] the independent Indrek Tarand;[41] and Lijst Dedecker's Derk Jan Eppink;[33][34] from member states such as the Czech Republic,[43][44] Poland,[43][44] Italy,[43] Sweden,[43] the Baltic and Balkan states,[43] Belgium,[44] and the Netherlands.[44] Speculation also considered the remnants of the Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN) group, which was thought to be on the verge of collapse[according to whom?] after the decision of Fianna Fáil to join the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)[45] and the Italian National Alliance merging with EPP member party Forza Italia. 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.

The new group was provisionally named the European Conservatives,[35] (echoing the 1970s group of the same name), which was then changed to European Conservatives and Reformists.[46] The original estimates were firmed up to 84 MEPs,[33] then to approximately 60.[44] 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.[36]

Formation[edit]

On 22 June 2009, the first official list of the new group's members was released.[10] On 24 June, the group held its inaugural meeting, in which Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope was named interim leader.[47] 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 2009, 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.

ECR Chairman, Michał Kamiński

The first election for the group leadership was also scheduled for 14 July 2009, pitting interim leader Kirkhope against fellow Briton Geoffrey Van Orden.[48] 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 Polish MEPs threatened to abandon the new caucus unless Kamiński was made the group leader in the parliament.[49] Kirkhope went to an emergency meeting with Polish MEPs in Strasbourg and proposed sharing the group leadership with the Kamiński; however, this was not accepted, and he had to step down as coalition leader, withdrawing in favour of Kamiński. McMillan-Scott, who alleged that the Conservative's new allies in Poland are 'racist and homophobic', had the Conservative whip withdrawn in the European Parliament.[50][51] In March 2010, McMillan-Scott joined the British Liberal Democrats and the ALDE group.[52]

Leadership changes and upheavals in membership[edit]

Group chairman Kamiński left Law and Justice (PiS) in November 2010, saying that the party had been taken over by the far-right. 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.[53] 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 (EFD) group instead.[54]

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,[55] but lost the election to Jan Zahradil of the Czech Republic's ODS.[56] Zahradil has been in talks with other parties about joining the ECR.[57] In late March, David Cameron invited the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) to join the group.[58]

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 they were denied through McMillan-Scott's defection.[59] Conservative Party MEP Giles Chichester was nominated on 31 May, and was elected unopposed by the Parliament on 5 July 2011,[60] after the ALDE group to which Koch-Mehrin belongs failed to find a willing and suitable candidate.[61]

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, four members of United Poland – who had split from Law and Justice in November – left the ECR to join the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group. On 17 January 2012, Czech Oldřich Vlasák replaced Chichester as the ECR's Vice-President of the Parliament.

2014 European Parliament elections[edit]

Bernd Lucke, former leader of Alternative for Germany

The 2014 European elections were held on 22–25 May 2014. On 4 June 2014, the ECR accepted applications from the Danish People's Party (4 MEPs) and the Finns Party (2 MEPs), both formerly attached to the EFD group during the 7th term of the European Parliament, 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.[62][63] Alternative for Germany and Bulgaria Without Censorship were admitted on 8 June, followed by the Dutch Reformed Political Party on 16 June.[64] On 18 June the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) joined the group,[65] a party previously attached to the Greens/EFA group.[66] N-VA party members had voted by a wide margin to join the ECR group instead of ALDE; 70 voted to join the ECR, and just three to join ALDE.[67] The N-VA's decision allowed the ECR to overtake ALDE as the third biggest group in the European parliament,[67] assuming the role of "kingmakers" in the new parliament.[68] On 23 June, Irish Fianna Fáil MEP Brian Crowley joined from the ALDE group, but without the permission of his party or its leader Micheál Martin, who removed Crowley's party whip the following day.[69][70] On the same day, IMRO – Bulgarian National Movement joined,[71] taking the group to 70 MEPs.

The ECR’s unanimous decision to admit the Danish People’s Party and Finns Party as members was criticised because one MEP from each party has a criminal conviction.[72][73] Morten Messerschmidt, lead candidate for the 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.[74] Jussi Halla-aho, a Finns Party MEP, was convicted in 2012 after writing a 2008 blog entry which claimed that Islam "reveres paedophilia".[74] However, Syed Kamall, the ECR's Chairman, who is a practising Muslim, defended the new members.[74]

Following the election, British Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim was the group's candidate for President of the European Parliament.[75]

Changes in membership[edit]

On 2 October 2014, the leader of the Slovakian party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), Richard Sulik, left the ALDE group to join the ECR,[76] and was formally accepted six days later.

In November 2014, the sole Croatian member of the group, Ruža Tomašić, left the party she founded, Croatian Party of Rights dr. Ante Starčević, to lead a new party, the Croatian Conservative Party.

On 24 January 2015, Amjad Bashir, the UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, defected to the Conservative Party and subsequently joined the ECR.[77]

On 18 May 2015, Raffaele Fitto formerly of Italian party Forza Italia and EPP group joined the ECR group: forming a party called the Conservatives and Reformists after the ECR.[78][79] On 7 July 2015, Remo Sernagiotto joined Conservatives and Reformists from the EPP group.

Membership[edit]

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

The ECR has 74 Members of the European Parliament, from twenty-two parties across sixteen countries. The ECR draws the majority of its MEPs from northern and central Europe.

Eighth European Parliament[edit]

Following the 2014 election, members from twelve new parties joined. Additional parties were admitted during the course of the Eighth European Parliament, such as Freedom and Solidarity of Slovakia and Conservatives and Reformists of Italy.

Party name or Member Abbr. Member state MEPs Date joined Europarty
New Flemish Alliance N-VA  Belgium 4 18 June 2014 EFA
Bulgaria Without Censorship BBT  Bulgaria 1 12 June 2014 None
IMRO – Bulgarian National Movement IMRO-BNM  Bulgaria 1 24 June 2014 None
Croatian Conservative Party HKS  Croatia 1 1 July 2013 AECR
Civic Democratic Party ODS  Czech Republic 2 22 June 2009 AECR
Danish People's Party DF  Denmark 4 4 June 2014 None
Finns Party PS  Finland 2 4 June 2014 None
Alternative for Germany AfD  Germany 2 12 June 2014 None/ECPM[a]
Alliance for Progress and Renewal[b] ALFA  Germany 5 12 June 2014 None
Family Party FAMILIE  Germany 1 4 June 2014 ECPM
Independent[c] IND  Greece 1 4 June 2014 None
Fianna Fáil[d] FF  Ireland 1 23 June 2014 None
Conservatives and Reformists CR  Italy 2 19 May 2015 None
National Alliance NA  Latvia 1 22 June 2009 AECR
Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania AWPL  Lithuania 1 23 June 2009 AECR
ChristianUnion CU  Netherlands 1 22 June 2009 ECPM
Reformed Political Party SGP  Netherlands 1 16 June 2014 ECPM
Law and Justice PiS  Poland 18 22 June 2009 AECR
Right Wing of the Republic PR  Poland 1 1 July 2014 None
Freedom and Solidarity SaS  Slovakia 1 8 October 2014 None
New Majority NOVA  Slovakia 1 4 June 2014 AECR
Ordinary People OĽaNO  Slovakia 1 4 June 2014 ECPM
Conservative Party Conservative  United Kingdom 20 22 June 2009 AECR
Ulster Unionist Party UUP  United Kingdom 1 22 June 2009 AECR
  1. ^ One AfD MEP, Beatrix von Storch, is an ECPM member.
  2. ^ Bernd Lucke left AfD with 4 more MEPs after losing leadership of his party.
  3. ^ Notis Marias left ANEL.
  4. ^ Brian Crowley was the sole member of Fianna Fáil elected in the 2014 election; following his announcement that he was joining the ECR, Fianna Fáil withdrew the party whip. Crowley remains a member of the Fianna Fáil party as a whole, but has been excluded from its cross-Parliamentary caucus.

Seventh European Parliament[edit]

When the ECR was founded, at the start of the 2009–2014 Parliament, it had MEPs in eight states, with just three having more than one MEP each (dark blue).
By the end of the 2009–14 Parliament, the ECR had been joined by MEPs from Croatia, Denmark, and Italy, as well as additional MEPs in the United Kingdom and Poland.

Originally, it had been announced on 22 June 2009 that Hannu Takkula, MEP for the Finnish Centre Party (a Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe 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.[80]

The group 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.[81] UKIP MEP David Campbell Bannerman rejoined the Conservative Party in May 2011, taking the group's tally to 56:[82] 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 (EFD) on 26 December 2011. In March 2012, Conservative Roger Helmer defected to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and also joined EFD; Marta Andreasen moved in the opposite direction, joining the Conservatives and the ECR from UKIP and the EFD group, in February 2013.[citation needed] 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 People of Freedom. The newly elected Croatian MEP Ruža Tomašić of the Croatian Party of Rights joined the group when Croatia joined the EU in July 2013.[83] 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.

Leadership[edit]

Chairman[edit]

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:

Assumed office Name Party
24 June 2009 Timothy Kirkhope United Kingdom Conservative Party
14 July 2009 Michał Kamiński Poland Law and Justice/Poland Comes First
8 March 2011 Jan Zahradil Czech Republic Civic Democratic Party
14 December 2011 Martin Callanan United Kingdom Conservative Party
12 June 2014 Syed Kamall United Kingdom Conservative Party

Group Bureau[edit]

In addition to the Chairman, the ECR is led by three Vice-Chairmen and a wider Bureau, including the leader of each national delegation represented in the ECR.

Position Name Party
Chairman and UK delegation leader Syed Kamall United Kingdom Conservative Party
Vice-Chairman and Polish delegation leader Ryszard Legutko Poland Law and Justice
Vice-Chairman Geoffrey Van Orden United Kingdom Conservative Party
Vice-Chairman Notis Marias Greece Independent Greeks
Bulgarian delegation leader Nikolay Barekov Bulgaria Bulgaria Without Censorship
Irish delegation leader Brian Crowley Republic of Ireland Independent
Chief Whip Ashley Fox United Kingdom Conservative Party
German delegation leader Bernd Lucke Germany Alternative for Germany
Treasurer Emma McClarkin United Kingdom Conservative Party
Danish delegation leader Morten Messerschmidt Denmark Danish People's Party
Member of the bureau Tomasz Piotr Poręba Poland Law and Justice
Finnish delegation leader Sampo Terho Finland Finns Party
Lithuanian delegation leader Valdemar Tomaševski Lithuania Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania
Croatian delegation leader Ruža Tomašić Croatia Croatian Party of Rights dr. Ante Starčević
Dutch delegation leader Peter Van Dalen Netherlands ChristianUnion
Czech delegation leader Jan Zahradil Czech Republic Civic Democratic Party
Latvian delegation leader Roberts Zīle Latvia National Alliance

Cohesion[edit]

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 (GUE/NGL) and far higher than in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) 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).[84] 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).[85]

See also[edit]

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