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Over the last few weeks, Europa United has been presenting an information article on each of the main groups and parties that make up the European Parliament. This is designed to help you find out as much information on who is seeking your vote in May 2019. In this information article, we look at the European People’s Party.

…a united Europe based on the values of human dignity, freedom, human rights, rule of law, solidarity and subsidiarity.

Overview

The largest and longest-running of groups in the European Parliament, the EPP was founded in 1963 to form a Christian Democratic base for unification of Europe, later becoming a strong advocate of enlargement to include countries emerging from the Soviet bloc.

… member states of the EU, coming together to advance the goal of a more competitive and democratic Europe, closer to its citizens, and a social market economy.

Led by Manfred Weber of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, its ten vice chairs are drawn from around Europe, with strong representation from eastern Europe.


Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP

The EPP is at heart Christian Democrat, the group serves as a Centre-right umbrella that emphasises its ability to adapt to changes in the political preferences of its member Parties.

With 218 MEPs, representing 60 Parties from all 28 European member states, the Group’s size enables its members to hold a range of key positions within the Parliament, helping them secure the right to author the European Parliament’s position on key pieces of draft legislation.

The EPP is keen to point out that, more than any other group, it has been “on the winning side” of most plenary-session votes in recent parliaments.

Views and Priorities

The EPP is socially and economically conservative, pro-European, supports enlargement and integration as well as a strong, co-ordinated European face to the rest of the world.

To advance these aims, it would strengthen the single market, oversight of the Eurozone and Europe’s external borders, and harmonise member states’ social systems.

Ideologies
• Liberal conservatism
• Pro-Europeanism
• Conservatism
• European federalism
• Christian democracy

Chairman
Manfred Weber – Germany

Vice Chairs
Lara Comi – Italy
Esther de Lange – Netherlands
Esteban Gonzales Pons – Spain
Françoise Grossetête – France
Sandra Kalniete – Latvia
Andrey Kovatchev – Bulgaria
Marie-Jean Marinescu – Romania
Paulo Rangel – Portugal
Jozsef Szajer – Hungary
Tadeusz Zwiefka – Poland

The EPP believes that continued growth and new job creation demands reform of the EU, and that improvements in competitiveness must center on the single market. To this end, it advocates the appointment of a commissioner with strong powers, similar to those of Competition Commissioner, to ensure that rules are implemented to govern the single market, and to extend its purview to services, data protection, protection of intellectual property and internet security. Re-industrialisation, more investment in research and development, and cutting red tape would boost employment. It favours stronger fiscal oversight of the EUR area and a joint European energy policy.

It favours further enlargement subject to existing policies, although not at the cost of impeding further integration and alignment, especially within the EUR zone. It is for keeping UK in the EU.

The EPP would strengthen Europe’s external borders so as to promote and guarantee freedom within Europe, and would extend the Schengen zone. The group advocates an EU-wide asylum system and a European cybersecurity strategy to be overseen by a commissioner for migration.

It seeks to protect Europe’s social market model, harmonise social systems, evaluate the social impact of all proposals for reform and combat tax fraud.

On foreign policy, the EPP would see Europe “speak with one voice”, take joint action on foreign policy activities and assume global leadership based on shared values and interests. It would harness the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) to ensure that the EU withstands Russia’s attempts to de-stabilise ENP countries, stand by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova and aim for visa-free regimes.

It emphasises the importance of EU external policy to open and fair trade that safeguards high EU standards of consumer, environment, social and data protection and investments. Essential to this is the trans-Atlantic partnership, which needs strengthening, for example through a trade and investment agreement with the US.

Membership

The Group describes itself as Centre-right, and its ideologies range from Centre-right to Centre-left. The political labels of its member Parties, shows a more right-wing complexion, which is also reflected in the ideologies they adhere to.

This is shown in the graph, which compares the political positions of the Group’s member parties and the ideologies of each. The left-hand bar shows Party-level political positions, while the right-hand bar looks deeper, to the sets of ideologies championed by Parties within the Group. Both are weighted by the number of MEPs representing them.

The left-hand bar shows that, while Parties labelled as Centre-right dominate, this is coupled with a small but noticeable Centre contingent from Belgium, Slovenia and Italy, as well as a number of independents. 14 Parties, with   181 MEPs between them, label themselves as Centre-right – right. Most of its MEPs represent parties that are squarely in the Centre-right, Christian democratic camp, including the German Christian Democratic Union, with 28 MEPs, the French Les Républicains, Spanish Partido Popular and Civic Platform of Poland, each with 16 MEPs, and Forza Italia, with 11; while the Right is represented by Hungary’s Fidesz, the Croatian Democratic Union and the Slovenian People’s Party, with 16 MEPs between them.

Now look at the right-hand bar, which maps the ideologies adhered to by the Parties in the EPP. Much of what is notionally Centre-right actually includes quite a bit of Centre and quite a bit of much harder Right. The Centre is attributable to 103 MEPs representing 17 pro-European Parties, while the Right to Far-right contingent is mainly from Hungary’s Fidesz, with its 11 MEPs, espousing Euro-scepticism, right-wing populism and smaller parties favouring various brands of regionalism and nationalism.

Suspension of Fidesz

In an almost unanimous vote on 20 March 2019, the European People’s Party (EPP) agreed to suspend, for an indefinite period, the membership of Fidesz. The length of the suspension is unclear, but it will last beyond the European elections in May. While it is suspended, Fidesz, which has a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian Parliament, will not enjoy voting rights within the EPP and Fidesz’ leader, Viktor Orban will not attend meetings with other EPP leaders, such as Germany’s Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Neither can Fidesz present candidates for posts in the party, vote in any EPP assemblies or participate in its meetings, said Manfred Weber, EPP leader.

The suspension follows a series of disagreements between Fidesz and the EPP, which finds some of its policies at odds with EPP principles. It also coincides with legal action by the European Parliament, which accuses Fidesz of undermining democracy and the rule of law, which could in itself result in sanctions.

The decision seems to have been precipitated by an anti-immigration poster campaign that featured unflattering photos of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who funds civil society groups that help migrants or defend human rights. Mr Orban apologised in a letter to the 13 parties that had called for Fidesz to be expelled from the EPP, and in person to Mr Weber, who visited Budapest. Yet the offending posters had merely been papered over rather than removed, and the anti-EU ad campaign was still visible on Hungarian news websites after Mr Weber had left Budapest.

The EPP office addresses is:

European People’s Party
EPP Headquarters
Rue du Commerce 10
1000 Brussels

+32-2-2854140
+32-2-2854141
info@epp.eu

This information article was compiled by Europa United contributor Frances Cowell and published in conjunction with the #thistimeimvoting campaign

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