Thursday 21 March 2019

Q&A What is the the EPP

Fionnan Sheahan and John Downing

Q What is the EPP?

The European People's Party is a grouping of the Christian democrat parties in the EU and the European Parliament, and currently the biggest political party in Europe. The grouping is centre-right on economic issues and socially conservative on morality issues. Its membership is made up of conservative, centre-right parties, which traditionally enjoy good relations with the majority Christian church in their country, be it Catholic or Protestant.

Committed to a free-market economy, it is also staunchly pro-European integration.

Although working off a federal model of unification on decision-making, it wants to see policies implemented locally – not centrally.

Q Is it big?

The EPP is the largest political organisation in Europe with over 70 member parties from 40 countries – EU and non-EU. It also has the most heads of state and government, the most European Commissioners, including the President Jose-Manuel Barroso, and is the largest group in the European Parliament.

Q Who are the influential EPP members of the past?

The group traces its roots back to Europe's so-called founding fathers, Robert Schuman, Alcide de Gasperi and Konrad Adenauer, who predated it being set up. But former Belgian Prime Minister Leo Tindemans was a driving force in its establishment.

Q How did Fine Gael get in there?

Garret FitzGerald got there first. Fianna Fail could have been the Irish members, given the general values associated with the group.

Ahead of his time, FitzGerald spotted the creation of the influential grouping and got Fine Gael in there first. When the EPP was formally established in 1976, it had members from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Ireland.

Q Who are the best-known Irish EPP members?

Garret FitzGerald was the pioneer but John Bruton was the embodiment of the EPP principles. He even became European Ambassador to the United States as a result of his standing in Europe.

Q What's the EPP Congress?

It's the Ard Fheis for the European People's Party before the European elections. It's a rally, which the leaders of each of the member parties address.

Q What else?

There'll also be the election of a 'leader' for the European elections. Each of the political groupings is putting forward a 'leader', as such, for the European elections, who is then intended to be their nominee for the European Commission President.

The outcome of the European elections will have a major impact on who gets to be the head of the policy-framing European Commission. The biggest group is supposed to have the big say.

Q Who are the candidates for the EPP job?

There are three names in the hat, but two are expected to drop out. Veteran former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker is the overwhelming favourite – and the preferred choice of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. France's European commissioner for internal market and services, Michel Barnier, may push it to a vote. Former Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis withdrew last night.

Irish Independent

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