Ultimately, the European Union (EU) is a success story: a closely knit alliance of today 28 nation-states that brought peace and prosperity to Europe and helped the transition of Eastern Europe to democracy after the fall of the iron curtain. The EU created a strong single market and a common currency. Yet it currently faces complex challenges, with Brexit, the euro- and refugee-crisis, which in part help to explain the rise of far-right, euro-skeptic and nationalist parties in the last European elections. Some observers argue, that this is consequence of a democratic deficit of the EU. Their institutions are perceived as too complex, too technocratic and too far away. One possible answer are parties on European level (so called ‘Europarties’), which – as ‘parties of parties’ – group together national parties along the lines of party families (and are independent of the parliamentary groups in the supranational parliament). Brought to life for the first direct election to the European parliament in 1979 they – despite mirroring the integration of the EU – have been rather invisible and weak. They did receive renewed attention in 2014 with the introduction of leading candidates (‘Spitzenkandidaten’), who were supposed to give the party families a face and make the elections more accessible for the voters. Are Europarties a piece of the puzzle to increase the legitimacy of the EU and turn it into a fully democratic system?
This taskforce aims to draft proposals for the European Commission as the central governing body for the EU, focusing on how the role of these parties can be strengthened. What are potential changes of EU statutes or electoral rules to boost their standing in European politics? How can we foster true party competition on European level? How can the parties as organizations enhance intraparty democracy and integrate their national member parties more closely (e.g. through the use of new technologies)?