Are centre-right parties in Europe becoming more Pro-European?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2010
20 Pages, Grade: 2.3
Ron Böhler (Author)


1 Introduction
2 Post-Communist CEE Countries between Nation and Europe
2.1 Categorization of Centre-Right Parties in Eastern Europe
2.2 History & Euroscepticism
3 One size fits all? Empirical evidence
3.1 Case Study I: The Czech Civic Democratic Party
3.2 Case Study II: The Slovak Christian Democratic Movement
3.3 Case Study III: Fidesz ­ Hungarian Civic Union
4 Conclusion
5 Reference List

1 Introduction
`[T]he European Union is a centrist project. The European Union has been created by
mainstream parties ­ Christian democrats, liberals, social democrats, and conservatives'
(Marks et al. 2006: 163). Following this claim we would expect, among other parties,
centre-right formations in Europe to be supporters and promoters of European
integration. In the same way that the European Union (EU) generally has deepened its
policies and widened its geographic silhouette for decades, centre-right parties would
be expected to become more `pro-European'.
In contrast, the aim of this essay is too prove this assumption wrong. While some
comprehensive studies indicate such an interrelation for Western European centre-right
parties (cf. Gaffney 1996), this does not bear in cases of centre-right parties in Central
Eastern European (CEE) countries. These parties were all too enthusiastic about the
break-down of the communist Soviet Union and the incipient era of democratic and
economic transition and proclaimed accession to the European Union as an immediate
necessity in their foreign policy agendas. The path to the first round of Eastern
enlargement of the EU in 2004, and another round three years later, was however hard-
won and time consuming. The main argument thus is twofold: (1) Centre-right party
formations in Eastern Europe became slightly less ambitious and rather more
Eurosceptic throughout the 1990s and even beyond accession of their respective
countries to the EU; and (2) they anyhow at no point questioned or opposed European
Union membership.
In its opening section, this essay will briefly categorize centre-right parties in
post-communist Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in order to identify relevant case
studies emphasising the major argument. The question under consideration requires
particular understanding of what more or less `pro-European' actually means. It is then
assumed that ongoing European integration processes have an apparent impact on the

domestic level, and in particular on parties´ opportunity structures within the national
political arena. In the end, they inevitably adapt to these external pressures by either
reacting receptive or by criticising or rejecting the European project. Based on this
assumption, the second part addresses the programmatic development and stance on
Europe of major centre-right parties in Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic
between 1990 and 2006. The essay concludes with a short assessment of what the in-
depth analyses of the case studies reveal in order to answer the question.
2 Post-Communist CEE Countries between Nation and Europe
2.1 Categorization of Centre-Right Parties in Eastern Europe
The essay is based upon Hanley´s definition of centre-right parties in CEE
countries as `seeking broad electoral support for programmes fusing elements of
liberalism (including neo-liberalism) and varieties of conservatism, which balance the
demands of post-communist social transformation, modernization and Europeanization
with older historical identities and ideologies' (2004: 23). In the cases of Central and
Eastern Europe, a cross-national classification of centre-right parties to one party family
is hardly feasible. According to Hanley, these parties however commonly share a
certain affiliation with centre-right formations in the `old Europe' (2008: 4), but still
lack `the broad appeal and integrative ability of their West European counterparts'
(Szczerbiak and Hanley 2006: 16). Another similarity is their historical rootedness
within the anti-communist opposition movements of the pre-1989 era, when they sought
for an end to Soviet authority and Western-style democracy (Hanley 2004b: 40). Their
centre-right successor parties hence thoroughly share a distinct attachment to Western
Europe and European institutions.
To simplify matters, this essay will refer to the classification of centre-right
parties by Szczerbiak and Hanley (2006: 11). Accordingly, the Czech Civic Democratic

Party (ODS), the Slovak Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and the Fidesz ­
Hungarian Civic Union are chosen as case studies under scrutiny. Besides, all these
parties are members of the centre-right European political party (EPP) family. Although
Lewis identifies this conspicuous characteristic as common ground for centre-right
parties in CEE countries (2007: 186-190), this says rather little about programmatic and
ideological analogies among them as they still can ­ and indeed do
­ vary greatly. Even scholars have problems finding distinct definitions. While
Vachudova label the selected parties as `moderate' (2001), Chan refer to them as
`traditional conservatives' (2001: 159-162). Lewis, however, distinguishes between
`conservative' and `liberal-conservative' right-wing parties (2000: 51-52). This kind of
elusiveness of centre-right parties in CEE countries additionally stresses the necessity
to do a one by one in-depth analysis of single case studies rather than following a
comparative approach.
2.2 History & Euroscepticism
The selected case studies will be studied under the assumption of distinct
historical path dependence. This theoretical approach emphasise the claim that different
political outcomes ­ here the party stance on Europe ­ can result even from akin starting
points, viz. the phase of transition and democratization in the post-communist era. Not
only do `specific patterns of timing and sequence matter' (Pierson 2000: 251), but also
apparently small incidents can cause huge effects and once implemented, a certain
modus operandi may be irreversible. Previous decisions and outcomes somehow shape
current and future ones. Therefore, the party positions towards European integration
will be analysed along election campaigns and programmatic documents prior to
parliamentary elections, beginning with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and the first
democratic elections in the aftermath until national elections in 2006.

The table below contains a chronologic listing of national election results of the
three political parties between 1990 and 2006 and indicates whether the party was in
government or in opposition. The purpose is to put party developments along the
timeframe into context and to supplement the picture of the parties´ evolutionary
process. On the other hand, the chart shall improve the credibility of historical path
dependence that is used in this essay.
Few scholars undertook research projects on comparative party politics in general, and
on stances of CEE centre-right parties on Europe in particular. Such attempts seldom
result in generalised comparative statements than in miscellanies uniting various single
case studies (Szczerbiak and Hanley 2006; Bugajski 2002; Szczerbiak and Taggart
2008). Others even challenge the comparability of positions parties have on Europe and
refer to different national settings and domestic political and socio-cultural structures
(Conti 2007: 193-194). While convergent paths among centre-right parties in CEE
countries are unlikely, the political outcome ­ the stance on European integration ­ can
be akin to each other. As slightly increasing Euroscepticism is anticipated in the selected
case studies, the essay will focus only on what it means to become less `pro-European'.
Taggart and Szczerbiak for instance distinguish between `soft' and `hard'
Euroscepticism. While the former one refers to `concerns on one (or a number) of policy

areas [that] lead to the expression of qualified opposition to the EU, or where there is a
sense that `national interest' is currently at odds with the EU´s trajectory', the latter one
expects `principled opposition to the EU and European integration' (2008: 7). Kopecký
and Mudde elaborated on this categorization and point out correctly that Eurosceptics
still `support the general ideas of European integration, but are pessimistic about the
EU´s current and/or future reflection of these ideas' (2002: 302). This suitable concept
shall hereinafter be applied to the three selected case studies.
3 One size fits all? Empirical evidence
3.1 Case Study I: The Czech Civic Democratic Party
Immediately after the breakdown of the communist regimes in CEE in the
course of the year 1989, economic and democratic transition processes began to evolve
in each of these countries to a more or less progressive extent. Associated with this, and
in particular in the case of the Czech Republic, `Europe' became a main focus in
political debates and public arenas (Hanley 2002: 1). It all began with the `Velvet
Revolution' of 1989, when the communist authoritarian regime was overcome in a non-
violent revolution (Bradley 1992: 66-105). This case study will focus on the Czech
Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which was founded in 1991 by Václav Klaus. He was
chairman of the party until 2002. Klaus, who led Czechoslovakia as finance minister
(1990-1992) and later as Czech prime minister (1992-1997), formed a liberal-market
oriented centre-right party that sought to refrain from communism as far as possible and
favoured a Western-like conservatism (Hanley 2004: 29). In the parliamentary election
of 1992, the ODS gained 29.73% of the votes and became the strongest party in the
Czech parliament and in government. Four years later, in 1996, the party repeated its
success with 29.62% of the electorate supporting the ODS.
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Are centre-right parties in Europe becoming more Pro-European?
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Ron Böhler (Author), 2010, Are centre-right parties in Europe becoming more Pro-European?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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