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Limited Influence? The Role of the Party of European Socialists in Shaping Social Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe

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Abstract

This article looks at the role of the Party of European Socialists (PES) in its attempts to shape social democratic parties in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) towards a West European norm. It discusses how existing views in the academic literature on the role of transnational parties are inadequate. We argue that the PES did not play a key role in encouraging the establishment and development of parties in the CEE states from the 2004 enlargement in the early stages of accession. We contend that the overall influence of party federations has been limited, and that these limitations were as much in evidence before enlargement took place as they were afterwards.

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2 Although, interestingly, the Commission chose not to include parties among the political conditions of entry. See PridhamGeoffrey, ‘European Union Accession Dynamics and Democratization in Central and Eastern Europe: Past and Future Perspectives’, Government and Opposition, 41: 3 (2006), pp. 373400 .

3 EnyediZsolt, ‘The “Europeanisation” of Eastern Central European Party Systems’, epsnet kiosk plus: The Net Journal of Political Science, 5: 1 (2007), pp. 6774 .

4 See HaughtonTim, ‘When Does the EU Make a Difference? Conditionality and the Accession Process in Central and Eastern Europe’, Political Studies Review, 5: 2 (2007), pp. 233–46.

5 See in particular PridhamGeoffrey, ‘Complying with the European Union's Democratic Conditionality: Transnational Party Linkages and Regime Change in Slovakia, 1993–98’, Europe-Asia Studies, 51: 7 (1999), pp. 1221–44; Geoffrey Pridham, ‘Patterns of Europeanization and Transnational Party Cooperation: Party Development in Central and Eastern Europe’, in Paul G. Lewis (ed.), Party Development and Democratic Change in Post-Communist Europe: The First Decade, London, Frank Cass, 2001, pp. 179–98; Geoffrey Pridham, ‘External Influences on Party Development and Transnational Party Cooperation: The Case of Post-Communist Europe’, in K. Dowding, J. Hughes and H. Margetts (eds), Challenges to Democracy: Ideas, Involvement and Institutions, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2001, pp. 169–87; DelsoldatoGiorgia, ‘Eastern Enlargement by the European Union and Transnational Parties’, International Political Science Review, 23: 3 (2002), pp. 269–89.

6 See Pridham, ‘Patterns of Europeanization and Transnational Party Cooperation’.

7 See Delsoldato, ‘Eastern Enlargement’.

8 HaughtonTim, ‘Driver, Conductor or Fellow Passenger? EU Membership and Party Politics in Central and Eastern Europe’, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 25: 4 (2009), pp. 413–26; VachudovaMalida, ‘Tempered by the EU? Political Parties and Party Systems Before and After Accession’, Journal of European Public Policy, 15: 6 (2008), pp. 861–79.

9 Attila Ágh, ‘East-Central Europe: Parties in Crisis and the External and Internal Europeanisation of the Party Systems’, in P. Burnell (ed.), Globalising Democracy: Party Politics in Emerging Democracies, London, Routledge, 2006, pp. 88–103.

10 See LadrechRobert, ‘Europeanization of Parties in Western and Eastern Europe: The Variable Nature of the EU's Attraction’, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, 10: 2 (2008), pp. 139–50.

11 Zsolt Enyedi and Paul G. Lewis, ‘The Impact of the European Union on Party Politics in Central and Eastern Europe’, in P. Lewis and Z. Mansfeldova, The European Union and Party Politics, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2006, pp. 231–49; see also LewisPaul G., ‘Changes in the Party Politics of the New EU Member States in Central Europe: Patterns of Europeanization and Democratization’, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, 10: 2 (2008), pp. 151–65.

12 See Enyedi and Lewis, ‘The Impact of the European Union’; Lewis, ‘Changes in the Party Politics of the New EU Member States’.

13 The history and developments of the parties under study are based on analysis of a variety of secondary resources, party documentation and 10 semi-structured interviews carried out with international secretaries, MEPs and officials from the PES between 2005 and 2008. Interviews focused on attempting to gauge respondents’ attitudes to the role of the PES in developing social democratic parties in CEE states and ascertaining perceived benefits and problems associated with the strategies adopted by the PES.

14 Haughton, ‘Driver, Conductor or Fellow Passenger?’, p. 424.

15 LadrechRobert, ‘Europeanization and Political Parties: Towards a Framework for Analysis’, Party Politics, 8: 4 (2002), pp. 389403 ; Haughton, ‘Driver, Conductor or Fellow Passenger?’; see also Ladrech, ‘Europeanization of Parties in Western and Eastern Europe; and PoguntkeThomas, AylottNicholas, LadrechRobert and LutherKurt Richard, ‘The Europeanisation of National Party Organisations: A Conceptual Analysis’, European Journal of Political Research, 46: 6 (2007), pp. 747–71.

16 HolmesMichael and LightfootSimon The Europeanisation of Left Political Parties: Limits to Adaptation and Consensus’, Capital and Class, 93 (2000), pp. 101–19.

17 Luciano Bardi, ‘European Party Federations’ Perspectives’, in Pascal Delwit, Erol Kulahci and C. Van Walle (eds), The Europarties: Organisation and Influence, Brussels, ULB, 2004, pp. 309–22.

18 NewmanMichael, ‘The Party of European Socialists and EU Enlargement to the East’, Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, 56 (2000), pp. 2948 .

19 DayStephen, ‘Developing a Conceptual Understanding of Europe's Transnational Political Parties (with a Specific Focus on the Party of European Socialists)’, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 13: 1 (2005), pp. 5977 .

20 For example, the Latvian Social Democratic Workers’ Party was very strongly supported by the Swedish Social Democrats, who financed the party and helped extensively with organization in the first free elections.

21 See Pridham, ‘Complying with the European Union's Democratic Conditionality’, p. 71.

22 See Newman, ‘The Party of European Socialists and EU Enlargement to the East’.

23 Robert Ladrech ‘Programmatic Change in the Party of European Socialists’, in P. Delwit (ed.), Social Democracy in Europe, Brussels, ULB, 2005, pp. 49–58.

24 PES, Statutes of the PES, Brussels, PES, 2006.

25 SpirovaMaria, ‘Europarties and Party Development in EU-Candidate States: The Case of Bulgaria’, Europe-Asia Studies, 60: 5 (2008), pp. 791808 .

26 Stefano Bartolini, Restructuring Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005.

27 Spirova, ‘Europarties and Party Development in EU-Candidate States’.

28 JohanssonKarl Magnus, ‘External Legitimization and Standardization of National Political Parties: The Case of Estonian Social Democracy’, Journal of Baltic Studies, 39: 2 (2008), pp. 157–83.

29 See David Hanley, Beyond the Nation State: Parties in the Era of European Integration, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2008, p. 134.

30 Pascal Delwit, ‘Electoral Developments in European Social Democracy’, in Delwit, Social Democracy in Europe, pp. 59–78.

31 Interview, Riga, 2007.

32 Interview, Riga, 2007.

33 Delwit, ‘Electoral Developments in European Social Democracy’.

34 There is a Lithuanian Labour Party that was created in 2003. Despite using the label ‘Labour Party’ it is seen to have an ‘indistinct ideological profile’ with very little in the party programme that indicates a coherent leftist profile. It did consider joining the PES group in the EP but opted instead for the European Democratic Party. The LSDP as a firmly entrenched PES member would have vetoed the inclusion of this new and populist party, see Kjetil Duvold and Mindaugas Jurkynas, ‘Europeanization Without Party Involvement: The Case of Lithuania’, in Lewis and Mansfeldova, The European Union and Party Politics, pp. 107–27.

35 See Herbert Kitschelt, Zdenka Mansfeldova, Radoslav Markowski and Gabor Toka, Post-Communist Party Systems, Competition, Representation, and Inter-Party Cooperation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.

36 Delwit, ‘Electoral Developments in European Social Democracy’.

37 DayStephen, ‘Die Osterweiterung der Europarteien Ambivalenzen eines Familienzuwachses’, Osteuropa, 54: 5–6 (2000), pp. 223–36.

38 Van BiezenIngrid, ‘On the Theory and Practice of Party Formation and Adaptation in New Democracies’, European Journal of Political Research, 44 (2000), pp. 147–74.

39 SloamJames, ‘West European Social Democracy as a Model for Transfer’, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 21: 1 (2005), pp. 6783 .

40 Poguntke et al., ‘The Europeanisation of National Party Organisations’.

41 Enyedi and Lewis, ‘The Impact of the European Union on Party Politics in Central and Eastern Europe’.

42 Delsoldato, ‘Eastern Enlargement by the European Union and Transnational Parties’, p. 281.

43 Karen Henderson, ‘Slovak Political Parties and the EU: From Symbolic Politics to Policies’, in Lewis and Mansfeldova, The European Union and Party Politics in East Central Europe, pp. 149–68.

44 The two nationalist parties were the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). See HandlVladimir and LeškaVladimir, ‘Between Emulation and Adjustment: External Influences on Programmatic Change in the Slovak SDL’, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 21: 1 (2005), pp. 105–22.

45 Interview, Bratislava, 2005.

46 PES, ‘Resolution Adopted by the PES Presidency’, Brussels, 12 October 2006, http://www.pes.org/downloads/PES_resolution_on_SMER_EN.pdf (accessed 28 August 2009), see http://www.euractiv.com/en/future-eu/slovak-party-suspendedpes/article-158775 (accessed 20 September 2010).

47 SMER only regained provisional membership at this time.

48 HaughtonTim and RybářMarek, ‘A Tool in the Toolbox: Assessing the Impact of EU Membership on Party Politics in Slovakia’, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 25: 4 (2009), pp. 540–63.

49 Letter to the authors from senior PSD official, 2007.

50 Ibid.

51 T. Gallagher, The European Union and Romania: Consolidating Backwardness? Open Europe, 26 September 2006, http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracyeuropefuture/EU_romania_3943.jsp.

52 Pridham, ‘European Union Accession Dynamics and Democratization in Central and Eastern Europe’, p. 387.

53 Sloam, ‘West European Social Democracy as a Model for Transfer’.

54 Attila Ágh, The Europeanization of Social Democracy in East Central Europe, Brussels, Europäische Politik, 2004.

55 BurasPiotr, ‘Polish Social Democracy, Policy Transfer and Programmatic Change’, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 21: 1 (2005), pp. 84104 .

56 Sloam, ‘West European Social Democracy as a Model for Transfer’.

57 Letter to the authors from senior PSD official, 2007.

58 Vachudova, ‘Tempered by the EU?’.

59 Stephen Day, ‘Assessing the Role and Significance of Transnational Political Parties within the European Union’, executive summary, ESF Exploratory Workshop, 2002.

60 Ibid.

61 VoetenErik, ‘Enlargement and the “Normal’ European Parliament’, in ThomassenJ. (ed.), The Legitimacy of the European Union after Enlargement, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 147–72.

62 Day, ‘Assessing the Role and Significance of Transnational Political Parties’.

63 Interviews, 2007.

64 Delsoldato, ‘Eastern Enlargement by the European Union and Transnational Parties’.

65 Day, ‘Assessing the Role and Significance of Transnational Political Parties’.

66 LightfootSimon, ‘The Consolidation of Europarties? The “Party Regulation” and the Development of Political Parties in the European Union’, Representation, 42 (2000), pp. 303–14.

67 SassoonDonald, ‘Fin-de-Siècle Socialism: The United, Modest Left’, New Left Review, 227, 1998), pp. 88124 .

68 DysonKen, ‘The Franco-German Relationship and Economic and Monetary Union: Using Europe to “Bind Leviathan” ’, West European Politics, 22 (2000), pp. 2544 .

69 See Day, ‘Assessing the Role and Significance of Transnational Political Parties’.

70 Simon Lightfoot, Europeanizing Social Democracy? The Rise of the PES, Oxford, Routledge, 2005.

71 Ágh, The Europeanization of Social Democracy in East Central Europe.

72 See Hanley, Beyond the Nation State, p. 77; HoughDan, ‘Third Ways or New Ways: Post Communist Left in Central Europe’, Political Quarterly, 76: 2 (2005), pp. 253–63.

73 Ibid.

74 Interview, Budapest, 2005.

75 Interview, Vilnius, 2007.

76 In 2004, a Latvian construction company, Laval, won a bid to build a school in Vaxholm in Sweden. However, the Swedish construction trade union, Byggnads, sought to ensure that Laval abided by Swedish wage agreements. Initially, Laval refused to do so, insisting it was a Latvian company employing Latvian workers under Latvian terms and conditions. Consequently, Byggnads instigated a blockade of the worksite, and Laval responded by seeking a court ruling against the union. The case eventually came before the Court of Justice (C-341/05). Although an initial opinion in May 2007 came out in favour of the Swedish union, the final decision in December that year went largely in favour of the Latvian company. See GerrardJohn, ‘Vaxholm/Laval Case: Its Implications for Trade Unions’, Employee Relations, 30: 5 (2008), pp. 473–8.

77 Interview, Riga, 2007.

78 RohrschneiderRobert and WhitefieldStephen, ‘Political Parties, Public Opinion and European Integration in Post-Communist Countries: The State of the Art’, European Union Politics, 7: 1 (2006), pp. 141–60.

79 Interview, Budapest, 2005.

80 Interview, Bratislava, 2005.

81 Interviews, Riga and Tallinn, 2007.

82 Interview, Budapest, 2005.

83 Interview, Bratislava, 2005.

84 Interview, Riga, 2007.

85 Interview, Budapest, 2005.

86 BaunMichael, DürrJakob, MarekDan and ŠaradínPavel, ‘The Europeanization of Czech Politics: The Political Parties and the EU Referendum’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 44: 2 (2006), pp. 249–80.

87 Interview, Tallinn, 2007.

88 Interview, Budapest, 2005.

89 Ibid.

90 Interview, Riga, 2007.

91 Interview, Bratislava, 2005.

92 Interview, Budapest, 2005.

93 TaggartPaul and SzczerbiakAleks, ‘Contemporary Euroscepticism in the Party Systems of the European Union Candidate States of Central and Eastern Europe’, European Journal of Political Research, 43 (2000), pp. 1–27 ; KopeckyPetr and MuddeCas, ‘The Two Sides of Euroscepticism: Party Positions on European Integration in East Central Europe’, European Union Politics, 3: 3 (2002), pp. 297326 .

94 Vachudova, ‘Tempered by the EU?’.

95 Buras, ‘Polish Social Democracy, Policy Transfer and Programmatic Change’.

96 Camilla Sandström, ‘The European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party: From Co-operation to Integration’, in Delwit, Kulahci and Van Walle (eds), The Europarties: Organisation and Influence, pp. 157–84.

97 Interview, Brussels, 2006.

98 Poguntke et al., ‘The Europeanisation of National Party Organisations’, pp. 748–9.

99 Simon Hix and Klaus Goetz, Europeanised Politics? European Integration and National Political Systems, London, Routledge, 2000.

100 Natalia Timus, ‘Coming Closer to Europe: Transnational Cooperation between EPFs and Post-Soviet Parties’, GARNET Working Paper 72/09, Warwick, 2009.

1 The authors would like to thank party officials from the various social democratic parties and the PES who provided such useful and insightful comments in interviews. Liverpool Hope provided travel funds for Michael Holmes to carry out interviews in CEE states and their support is acknowledged with thanks. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at ‘Shaping and Reshaping Social Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe’, Cevipol, Université libre de Bruxelles, 28–9 September 2007 and the panel ‘Perspectives on European Social Democracy’, 59th Political Studies Association annual conference, Manchester, 7–9 April 2009. We would also like to acknowledge the helpful advice and comments on early drafts of this article received from Charlie Burns, Stephen Day, Nicholas Rees, Fiona Ross and two anonymous referees.

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Government and Opposition
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