Is Eurorealism the New 'cool'? The European Conservatives and Reformists Group and European Integration

Benjamin Leruth

Following the May 2014 European elections, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group became the third largest pan-European group represented in the European Parliament, overtaking the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). Founded in 2009 under the influence of David Cameron, the ECR campaigns to "reform the EU on the basis of Eurorealism, Openness, Accountability and Democracy" (ECR 2009). While the notions of openness, accountability and democracy have been widely discussed in the existing literature (see e.g. Schmitter 2000; Eriksen and Fossum 2002; Follesdal and Hix 2006), Eurorealism stands out as an oddly under-studied notion, even though it has been used by political parties since the early 2000s. Based on manifesto analysis, this paper attempts to offer a clear definition of 'Eurorealism' and to understand why the ECR group was so successful in attracting new parties following the 2014 European elections. More particularly, this paper aims at explaining why historically pro-European and 'hard Eurosceptic' parties switched their stance to adopt a more critical (or more favourable) position on European integration by joining the ECR.

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