Back To CourseHistory 109: Western Europe Since 1945
14 chapters | 134 lessons
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Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.
Newton's Third Law - that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - does not only apply to physics. Indeed, in politics, often as soon as there is an organized movement in favor of something, a reactionary, opposed movement crops up. Such is the case in Europe and the rise of euroskepticism in the 21st century. As euroskeptics coalesced around right-wing, isolationist political parties, there soon grew a centrist political movement directly opposed to euroskepticism. This is best exemplified in the relatively new, centrist party, the European Democratic Party.
The European Democratic Party was founded in the wake of the 2004 elections for European Parliament, which saw the euroskeptic group, the Alliance for Europe of the Nations, led by British Member of European Parliament Nigel Farage, win 37 seats and become the sixth largest parliamentary group. The AEN was based on euroskepticism, the idea that the supranational institutions of the European Union (EU) encroach upon the sovereignty of individual European nations, and, moreover, do more harm than good for the nations of Europe and all Europeans.
Euroskeptics often complain that the EU has too large of a bureaucracy and governance is too slow, stilted, or inaccessible to the public. The solution, for many euroskeptics, is the wholesale dismantling of the EU or simply the resignation of their home country from the supranational organization.
With euroskepticism on the rise in the early 21st century, those who believed in the European project and the organization and institutions that came with the EU were put on the defensive. The European Democratic Party (or EDP) was founded to defend the EU and its institutions. It was founded in December 2004 by François Bayrou and Francesco Rutelli, two centrist European politicians from France and Italy, respectively. Almost immediately, the EDP and its member parties joined the centrist political coalition, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe parliamentary group, which was at the time the third largest political coalition in the European Parliament.
Since its inception, the party has grown and now has ten member parties across eight EU nations. In addition, there are several MEPs who identify as being members of the EDP even though no party in their country is affiliated with it. Unfortunately, since its creation, the EDP's parliamentary coalition, the ALDE, has returned significantly worse election results. In 2009, the ALDE slightly lost traction in the European Parliament, down to 84 seats from the 88 it held after the 2004 elections. However, it took an even larger hit in the 2014 elections, when it won only 67 seats, and fell to being the fourth largest parliamentary group.
Since the EDP was founded in direct opposition to the growth of euroskepticism and isolationism in Europe, it should come as little surprise that one of the EDP's founding principles is the preservation and growth of the EU and EU institutions. The EDP believes that European integration should not only be preserved, but expanded. In addition, the EDP calls on Europe to continue building what it calls the social market economy.
This means that the EDP wants the EU to protect the local or regional cultural customs of Europe, while at the same time ensuring that all Europeans enjoy the same civil and economic freedoms as their neighbors. Achieving this idealistic balance is one of the toughest problems facing the EU today, and it provides a significant target for the EU's critics, who claim it can never be achieved.
More concretely, the EDP fights for many of the issues important to the rest of the ALDE. For example, the EDP and ALDE firmly believe the European Parliament must expand civil liberties and the fundamental rights of Europeans. Any restrictions on European freedom - even those in the name of safety - attack the basic rights of European citizens. In order to combat this possibility, the EDP and ALDE believe that something akin to a basic European Constitution needs to be created to safeguard the rights and liberties of all Europeans in a single document, which until now have been granted and guaranteed on a piecemeal basis.
The EDP and ALDE also believe strongly that some form of carbon tax must be implemented in order to ensure that greenhouse gases are reduced. They argue that the European Union should lead the way by first implementing a carbon tax and then encouraging the rest of the world to follow suit. In addition, they believe the EU should encourage the growth of green industry and businesses by investing in green technology, which will not only reduce greenhouse gases and pollution, but also aid in the growth of new industries.
The EDP and ALDE also believe that the EU's budget needs significant revisions. While its stance has been tempered by the need for infrastructure work projects and other financial aid in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, they believe EU governments need to do a better job of spending within their financial means. Longer-term budgets with more binding measures would help keep countries from falling deeply into debt and requiring bailouts like those given to Ireland and Greece. In addition, they believe the Euro should be expanded to more countries within the Eurozone in order to promote greater financial stability.
The ALDE and EDP also believe that financial markets within the EU, which are currently subject only to national guidelines and laws, need to be regulated at the EU level. This should help ensure that risky financial practices are stamped out and soften the blow of future global financial catastrophes. In addition, they contend that the EU should have greater control over the general direction of European economies. With better coordination, the EDP claims the EU could have the strongest and most competitive economy in the world.
The EDP was founded in the wake of the 2004 parliamentary elections in direct opposition to the strong showing for euroskeptic parties. As such, the EDP is devoted to maintaining and expanding the power and influence of the EU and EU institutions. Unfortunately, since the EDP's institution in 2004, its parliamentary coalition, the ALDE, has lost seats in the European Parliament.
In addition to defending the EU, the EDP also supports other ALDE initiatives, such as the institution of a carbon tax to help cut greenhouse gases. It also supports the central regulation of EU financial markets and the revision of the EU budget and monitoring of national budgets. The EDP also believes Europeans' civil rights need to be expanded and protected now more than ever.
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Back To CourseHistory 109: Western Europe Since 1945
14 chapters | 134 lessons