To the average European citizen, the political groups in the European Parliament, which help shape EU-wide legislation, are a vaguely familiar concept. But there is much less knowledge of the European political parties (as opposed to groups) and the think-tanks that are affiliated to them.
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The dominant players have traditionally been the European People’s Party (EPP), the Party of European Socialists (PES), and the Federation of Liberal and Democrat parties (renamed ALDE in 2012), all of which were formed in the 1970s, as confederations of national parties from across the European Union.
They were joined by the European Green Party and the Party of the European Left in 2004, and then by the European Conservatives and Reformists Party in 2009.
Part of that eco-system are the foundations/think-tanks, which are affiliated to each of the parties, based in part on the German Stiftung model, bringing together the think-tanks at the national level. The parties then also have women and youth networks.
So what role do the European political parties and foundations play? How do they interact with the European Parliament groups and Commissioners, and how do they affect political and policy co-ordination in Brussels and across national capitals?