European Democrats

The European Democrats was a loose association of conservative political parties in Europe. It was a political group in the European Parliament from 1979 until 1992, when it became a subgroup of European People's Party–European Democrats (EPP-ED). It continues to exist as a political group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

European Democrats in the European Parliament

European Democrats
European parliamentary group
Name European Democrats
English abbr. ED[1][2][3]
French abbr. DE[4]
Formal name European Democratic Group[3][5]
Ideology Conservatism, Economic liberalism, Euroscepticism
From 17 July 1979[4]
To 1 May 1992[4]
Preceded by European Conservative Group
Succeeded by European People's Party–European Democrats
Chaired by James Scott-Hopkins,[5]
Henry Plumb,[6]
Christopher Prout[7]
MEP(s) 63 (July 17, 1979)
50 (July 23, 1984)
34 (July 25, 1989)


The European Democratic Group[3][5] (ED) was formed on 17 July 1979[4] by British Conservative, Danish Conservative and other MEPs after their success in the 1979 elections. It supplanted the earlier European Conservative Group.

In the late seventies and early eighties, the ED was the third-largest group in the Parliament.

However, the group saw its membership fall sharply in the late 1980s, as many centre-right members moved to the rival European People's Party (EPP), dominated by the German CDU and the ideology of Christian democracy in general. The ED had been somewhat further from the political centre and less pro-European than the EPP. Largely isolated, even hardline eurosceptics like Margaret Thatcher conceded that the British Conservatives could not be effectively heard from such a peripheral group.


On 1 May 1992,[4] the ED (now largely composed of UK Conservative Party members) dissolved, and its remaining members were accorded "associated party" status in the EPP group; that is, being part of the parliamentary group without retaining actual membership in the EPP Europarty organisation. This was considered essential for the Conservatives, as the EPP was generally seen as quite favourable to European integration, a stance at odds with their core ideology. The Conservatives' relationship to the EPP would become a sore point in the following years, particularly for the eurosceptic general membership in Britain. Then-Tory leader William Hague hoped to put the issue to rest by negotiating a new arrangement in 1999 by which the parliamentary group would rebrand itself as the European People's Party–European Democrats (EPP-ED), with the "European Democrat" nomenclature returning after a seven-year hiatus. This was intended to nominally underscore the Conservatives' status apart from the rest of EPP, and it was hoped that with the coming enlargement of the European Union numerous newly involved right-wing parties, averse to the EPP proper for its perceived European federalism, would be willing to instead enter the ED subgroup, growing the overall alignment.


The arrangement proved to do little to appease opposition. Hague's successor, Iain Duncan Smith, made a concerted drive at one point to resurrect the European Democratic Group, but backed off when it became clear that Conservative MEPs would not move voluntarily. The hope that multiple Central and European parties would join ED also proved to be dubious, as only the Czech Civic Democratic Party took up the offer, with the remainder joining EPP proper or other groups such as Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN) or Independence and Democracy. Meanwhile, the ED remained a more eurosceptic subgroup within the broader EPP-ED bloc that contributed slightly more than 10% of its total MEPs. It resisted the trend of incorporating as a European political party.

During the 2005 Conservative leadership contest, eventual winner David Cameron pledged to withdraw the Conservatives from the EPP-ED group, while opponent David Davis argued in a letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph that the current ED arrangement allowed the Conservatives to maintain suitable distance from EPP while still having influence in the largest parliamentary grouping. Conservative/EPP-ED MEP Martin Callanan responded in that paper the following day:

SIR - David Davis (Letter, November 10) is sadly misinformed about our Conservative MEPs' relationship with the European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament. He claims that "Conservatives are members of the European Democrat group, which forms an alliance with the EPP". In reality, though, the ED does not exist. It has no staff or money and is, in effect, a discussion group within the EPP. […] Far from being a symbolic step, as Mr Davis suggests, leaving the EPP is the one hard, bankable commitment to have come out of this leadership campaign.[8]

The Czech Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Polish party Law and Justice (PiS) and the Rally For France party were among the first to discuss forming a breakaway group under the Movement for European Reform. Sir Reg Empey, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) has committed his party thereunto[9] Its position would be that the European Union should exist, but as a looser supranational organisation than at present, making the group less eurosceptic than the Union for Europe of the Nations and the Independence and Democracy. Some members from the above parties founded a new organization, the Alliance for an Open Europe, in the midst of this debate, with broadly similar objectives.

Cameron initially intended to form the new group in 2006, though this aspiration had to be cancelled due to their main prospective partners, the ODS and PiS, being unable or unwilling to break away from their then-groupings; the new grouping was put on hiatus until the European Parliament election, 2009. By then, new factorsincluding the collapse of the Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN) groupmade conditions for forming a new political grouping much more favourable. On 22 June 2009, the founder members of the European Conservatives and Reformists, all signatories of the Prague Declaration announced that they were to leave the EPP-ED, and in virtue of that fact, the European Democrats movement. This announcement ended the 30-year existence of the European Democrats in the European Parliament.

Former member parties

The following political parties were associated with the European Democrats at some point:

Party Abbr. Country From To
Civic Democratic Party ODS  Czech Republic 14 July 2004 22 June 2009
Conservative People's Party K  Denmark 17 July 1979 1 May 1992
Pensioners' Party PP  Italy 20 July 1999 14 July 2009
Democratic and Social Centre – People's Party CDS–PP  Portugal 20 July 2004 2006
People's Alliance AP  Spain 10 June 1987 25 July 1989
Conservative Party  United Kingdom 17 July 1979 22 June 2009
Ulster Unionist Party UUP  United Kingdom 20 July 1999 22 June 2009

European Democrats in PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe)

The European Democrat Group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was originally founded as the Group of Independent Representatives in 1970 by British and Scandinavian members of PACE, having about 35-40 members from the UK, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Turkey, Sweden and Switzerland. It adopted its current name in September 1980.


See also


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