2 - 3
The Europeanization of political parties...
The concept of a European impact...
Dimensions of Europeanization of political parties...
3 - 4
The Comparative Method: What (not) to compare?...
When home hits Europe...
Adaptational pressures & opportunity structures...
Europe and political parties: no benefit at all?...
5 - 6
6 - 7
Patterns of party competition...
7 - 8
Relations beyond the national party system...
SPD and Parti Socialiste compared: Two opposed developments...
The Europeanization of the SPD...
5.1.1 Hamburg vs. Berlin...
5.1.2 The desire for EU expertise...
5.1.3 Party competition in an uncompetitive environment?...
10 - 11
5.1.4 The debacle of the Blair-Schröder manifesto...
The Europeanization of the French Parti Socialiste...
11 - 12
5.2.1 La gauche plurielle and no program for Europe...
5.2.2 Managing Europe without manager...
5.2.3 A pragmatic consortium...
5.2.4 The PS in Europe: Against all odds? ... 13 - 14
Conclusion... 14 - 15
Bibliography... 16 - 18
The impact of European Union politics on national political parties has attracted only little
attention in the field of Europeanization. (see e.g. Gaffney 1996; Luther and Müller-Rommel
2005) This is astonishing taking into consideration the important role of political parties in
national policymaking on the one hand, but by far more their continuing minimized role in
European multi-level governance that needs to be explained. (Poguntke 2007a: 1-2) In
contrast to most domestic key actors, political parties were often considered as `losers´ of
European integration due to their decreasing power and influence, a lacking relationship to the
(European) citizen and their aggregated interests and not least their underrepresentation
through the relatively weak European Parliament. (cf. Gaffney 1996: 18; Cole and Drake
1998: 101; Ladrech 2000: 21-36)
In the end of the twentieth century a high number of west-European countries were led by
social democratic governments, e.g. the UK, Italy, France, Germany and Denmark. (Ladrech
2002a: 371) Two parties that came almost simultaneously into power have been the French
Parti Socialiste (PS) in 1997 and the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) one year later.
Both were henceforth part of a coalition government respectively cohabitation. Today are
both members of the transnational Party of European Socialists (PES). The question remains
how both parties adapted to the new environment that was crucially framed by newly
emerging opportunities, but also constraints from Europe.
The aim of this paper is to analyze the change and adaptation that occurred in both social
democratic parties during their common time of representation in government. The research
question - Does the Europeanization of national political parties in government do inevitably
lead to similar adaptation processes? - is thus targeted on the internal party processes caused
by the external effects of European integration. The variables that explain these modifying
processes are further elaborated under point 4 of this paper.
The benefit of this paper is threefold: It attempts to find similarities in the Europeanization of
national political parties. By taking into focus two social democratic parties that gained power
at almost the same time and that were impacted by the same EU mechanisms, it furthermore
could give an explanation to what extent Social Democrats adapt to Europe in equal measures
and why other outcomes in the Europeanization process may vary. Finally, the paper tests a
framework that was designed by Robert Ladrech (2002) to identify and analyze the
Europeanization of political parties. This framework is generally accepted in Europeanization
research on political parties, but is not yet tested in extenso. The paper is expected to
constitute a comparative study that is relevant and representative for all other social
democratic parties that have been in government in the same period or are about to gain
power in a European country within the next years.
2 The Europeanization of political parties
After an introduction into the scientific debate about Europeanization and the concept used
here to analyze the European impact on national political parties, the framework will be
applied to the chosen examples the German SPD and the French PS - in comparative
analysis. Finally the empirical findings will be interpreted briefly.
2.1 The concept of a European impact
Domestic political parties do traditionally try to win elections to influence national public
policy. (Ladrech 2005: 328) They do hereby not only act in their domestic environment and
free of external impacts. The European Union has grown to an important sphere of action over
the last decades that can neither be ignored nor avoided. Governments and with them their
constituting parties have to adapt to fit into the variety of rules and regulations that do
change their scope as well as restructure the relations of power between domestic actors.
(Cole and Drake 1998: 99)
2.2 Dimensions of Europeanization of political parties
In literature the Europeanization of political parties is discussed out of three different
dimensions of analysis. The first examines the emergence and development of cross-national,
in particular trans-European, party federations. (cf. Pridham and Pridham 1981, Bell and Lord
1998) The second approach analyzes the dynamics of national parties and party systems as
they work within the European Parliament. (cf. Attina 1990; Hix and Lord 1997)
Nevertheless, most scholars take a look on the impact that the EU and its politics have on
national party programs, ideologies or structures as well as on entire party systems. (see also
Featherstone 1988; Gaffney 1996)
This paper is based on the latter one, taking into perspective the top-down process of EU
politics and its effects on national party organizations. Europeanization here is defined
narrowly and considered as `an incremental process reorienting the direction and shape of
politics to the degree that EC political and economic dynamics become part of the
organizational logic of national politics and policy-making´. (Ladrech 1994: 69) Ladrech
(2002) furthermore designed an analytical framework based on this definition to compare
Europeanization effects in domestic party systems, which will be illustrated below. In his
subsequent work and referring to Claudio Radaelli, Ladrech replaced the term `incremental´
by `adaptive´ (Ladrech 2005: 318), which is suggested to be better qualified in this context of
analysis to identify adaptational processes rather than a step-by-step development.
2.3 The Comparative Method: What (not) to compare?
The theory mentioned above reveals the problem of what exactly is in focus of this analysis
and what is not. The framework provided tries to capture the adapting nature of national
political parties being confronted with changing environments that requires adaptive
It is suggested to compare the two parties during their reign in relation to each other, because
the EU impact on governmental parties is in the focus of this analysis. If we would take
possible Europeanization effects during their time in opposition before 1997/1998 into
account, the level of analysis would presumably change. A before/after comparison is in this
case regarded to mislead for technical reasons. Parties in opposition do in principle operate
with different opportunity structures and adaptational pressures than ruling parties do. (cf.
Carter et al. 2007)
3 When home hits Europe
I will start by modeling the emerging Europeanization effects and the way national political
parties do react in consideration of rising or simply changing external pressures as well as
opportunities. Referring to Olsen, `political institutions and the agents embedded within them
respond in routine ways to changing opportunities and challenges.´ (Olsen 2002: 924) Hereby,
pressures and possibilities rising from the European Union level of governance do not affect
domestic actors and institutions similarly. The degree of their adaptation depends either on the
liability of EU law and regulations, the will and need to apply standard operating procedures,
calculated problem-solving with expected outcomes, conflict or confrontation or on the
socialization of appropriate actors by learning or the diffusion of ideas and generally
recognized solutions. (Olsen 2002: 924)
3.1 Adaptational pressures & opportunity structures
New opportunities do also arise in the case of changing division of power between domestic
actors. In the way political parties are concerned they are not bound to EU regulations, but to
the successive redistribution of resources and power. (Knill and Lehmkuhl 1999: 1-3) But
even in case of a changing environment, `rational adaptation by the party to face a new reality
remains less likely than a messy last minute scramble.´ (Hanley 2008: 84) Hanley even goes a
step further: `As a rule it [the party] has to suffer some kind of shock before calls for change
begin to be heeded.´ (Hanley 2008: 84) It can be thus assumed that political parties remain
static against external pressures as long and resolutely as possible.
There is no doubt that in the case of Europe the pressure has grown `upon national leaders to
rationalize the relationship between `Europe´ and domestic traditions and norms.´ (Drake and
Milner 1999: 166) The incentives to deviate from a static position are low as long as the costs
of doing so outweigh potential benefits from trying to steer the integration process. Especially
in the case of social democratic parties, which traditionally focus on the nation state as the
level of governance to evolve and implement socioeconomic change. (Ladrech 2000: 5-6)
Nevertheless the question remains, if it is Europe all alone. Especially with regards to
economic globalization and periodical changes in society and domestic politics, such as
political reforms or the changing role of the state itself, the source of adaptational pressures
and opportunity structures remain often unclear and can so not be narrowed down
unambiguously to the impact of the EU. (cf. Meunier 2004) The analytical framework
provided by Ladrech, on which this paper is based on, tries to incorporate these uncertainties
by establishing clear definitions and indicators for change.
3.2 Europe and political parties: no benefit at all?
According to Ladrech (2002: 395) national political parties do not benefit from the rising
European impact on both the supranational and the domestic level. State sovereignty got
transferred to the EU level step-by-step, starting with the Single European Act (1986), the
Maastricht Treaty (1992) and, right before the electoral success of SPD and PS, the Treaty of
Amsterdam (1997). Or to put it like Cole and Drake (1998: 102): `The old national
interventionist model is no longer in fashion.´
Ende der Leseprobe aus 19 Seiten
- Arbeit zitieren
- Ron Böhler (Autor), 2010, National Party Politics in an integrating Europe? The Europeanization of Social Democrats in France and Germany between 1997 and 2001, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/376508