In the new Treaty of Lisbon version of the Treaty on European Union, the European political parties are taken up under Title II, Provisions on democratic principles (Article 8a paragraph 4):
“Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.”
In yesterday’s vote the European Parliament overwhelmingly adopted rules regarding their funding: 538 votes in favour to 74 against with 10 amendments.
Political parties at the EU level are necessary channels for democratic participation. Until now they have been weak coalitions of national parties and overshadowed by the parliamentary groups in the European Parliament.
From now on the European political parties are going to be somewhat better equipped to contribute to an evolving European public debate.
The next step for the European political parties is to become more than loose coalitions of parties in the member states. They have to reach out to EU citizens directly and they have to develop means to engage activists across national and linguistic borders.
The new European political parties have to become not only active, but interactive in order to develop the nascent European public space.
Much depends on the European parties themselves, but the national political parties have to change at least as much. Only if the parties in the member states start to take their European parties seriously is there any chance of success.
The homepage of every national party is the obvious starting point for creating awareness. What does it tell us now? What should it be telling us?
These changes have to happen now, not a few weeks ahead of the European parliamentary elections.
European Parliament News: Results of votes on Thursday 29 November 2007;