Controversy shrouded UKIP once again this week with the news that, in a last ditch effort to save the dissolution of their group in the European Parliament, Polish MEP Robert Iwaszkiewicz has been accepted to join forces with Nigel’s Purple Army. Many questions have been asked, such as why are UKIP allying with a man who advocates domestic abuse? And I thought Farage didn’t like Eastern Europeans?
But it also throws into light the whole structure of the European Parliament. Why are there groupings in the first place? Which parties are in active co-operation? And who forms the largest groups?
In this article we provide the answers.
To begin with, the European Parliament is the legislative body of the European Union, and is made of MEPs from the various parties of member states. Parties are then formed into ideological groups with other MEPs based on ideological factors such as socialism, liberalism and Euro-scepticism. This affords parties greater influence in the Parliament, with their causes harnessing a wider support base. It also opens up certain privileges, such as subsidies and guaranteed places on committees, that are not otherwise afforded if parties reside outside a grouping.
European People’s Party
Ideology: Pro-European and centre-right conservatism.
Group Chair: Manfred Weber (Bavarian), MEP for the Christian Social Union.
Number of MEPs: 220
Notable Parties: Christian Democratic Union (German), Fine Gael (Ireland) and the Union for a Popular Movement (France).
The European People’s Party is the largest group in the European Parliament, with MEPs from every nation except Britain.
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Ideology: Centre-left social democracy.
Group Chair: Gianni Patella (Italian), MEP for the Italian Democratic Party.
Number of MEPs: 191
Notable Parties: Labour Party (U.K.), Socialist Party (France) and the Social Democratic Party (German).
This group is the second largest in the European Parliament, and has MEPs from all member states.
European Conservatives and Reformists
Ideology: Centre-right conservatism and slight Euro-scepticism.
Group Chair: Syed Kamall (U.K.), MEP for the Conservative Party.
Number of MEPs: 71
Notable Parties: Conservative Party (U.K.), Ulster Unionist Party (U.K.) and the Finns Party (Finland).
This group is the third largest, with MEPs from 21 member states. The British MEP
Daniel Hannan is one of the most well-known MEPs in this group due to his fiery speech against Gordon Brown which received considerable media attention.
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Ideology: Centrist liberalism.
Group Chair: Guy Verhofstadt (Belgian), MEP for Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats.
Number of MEPs: 67
Notable Parties: Liberal Democrats (U.K.).
This group is the main liberal group in the European Parliament, and is led by the former Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt. He is known for clashing with Nigel Farage in often humorous exchanges such as the one below.
European United Left/Nordic-Green Left
Ideology: Broadly left wing, containing some MEPs that are self-described communists.
Group Chair: Gabriele Zimmer (German), MEP for the Left Party
Number of MEPs: 52
Notable Parties: Coalition of the Radical Left (Greece) and Sinn Féin (Ireland).
This group is where the more far-left MEPs sit, taking in beliefs ranging from socialism to outright communism.
The Greens-European Free Alliance
Ideology: Green-based politics and regionalism.
Group Chair: Daniel Cohn-Bendit (German), MEP for the Greens and Rebecca Harms (German), MEP for the Greens.
Number of MEPs: 50
Notable Parties: The Green Party (U.K.), the Scottish Nationalist Party (U.K.) and Plaid Cymru (U.K.).
This group is where parties more concerned with environmental issues call home, although they do also advocate regionalist issues.
Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy
Ideology: Right-wing populism and Euro-scepticism
Group Chair: Nigel Farage (British), MEP for UKIP and David Borrelli (Italian), MEP for the Five Star Movement.
Number of MEPs: 48
Notable Parties: UKIP (U.K.) and the Five Start Movement (Italy).
This group nearly collapsed after a Latvian MEP left their ranks, however the group was revived after the struck a controversial deal with the Polish MEP Robert Iwaszkiewicz, whose party has made controversial statements on the Holocaust and the role of women in politics. Farage himself is a well-known MEP to people both inside and outside of Britain – particularly for when he clashed with the former president of the E.U. Parliament Herman Van Rompuy saying that Rompuy had the "charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of low grade bank clerk".
Number of MEPs: 52
Notable Parties: Front National (France), Golden Dawn (Greece) and the Democratic Unionist Party (U.K.).
The Non-Inscrits are the MEPs who do not sit in any of the recognized groups above. They could be independent MEPs or belong to more extreme ideologies. For instance, the group European National Front which contains MEPs from fascist parties like Golden Dawn is not recognized by the European Parliament, and thus is a Non-Inscrit group. Many of the more radical Eurosceptic parties find themselves listed as Non-Inscrits in the European Parliament.