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'Eurorealism' in Multi-level Party Politics

Martin Steven

The 2014 European Parliament elections on May 22-25 will be the first contested by the European Union's (EU) newest political grouping, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). The ECR parliamentary party was set up after the last elections in 2009 by conservative politicians from the United Kingdom (UK), Poland, the Czech Republic and elsewhere who were uncomfortable with the consistently pro-European stance adopted by the main centre-right group, the European People's Party (EPP). This project will be the first to examine that important transition from EPP to ECR five years on - a period that has corresponded with a series of dramatic events including the global financial downturn and the Euro-zone sovereign debt crisis. In particular, the project will seek to ascertain what the impact of the 2014 elections will be on the still developing organisational and policy structure of the ECR - and its capacity for shaping the future direction of European integration. This paper will examine the consequences on European integration of the Conservatives leaving the EPP to sign the Prague Declaration and form the ECR. Is the group still dominated in its leadership by the British Conservatives despite being one of the European Parliament's medium-sized groupings involving ten member states? Has the Conservatives' decision to hold a referendum on British membership of the EU before December 2017 created internal group tensions in relation to policy development? Can 'Eurorealism' now be considered a coherent ideology or merely an expedient and partisan term with limited durability?

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