European Parliament History Series

Culture politique et dynamiques du Parlement européen, 1979-1989

The election of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage in 1979 was a ground-breaking democratic event in that it profoundly changed the character, composition and functioning of the Assembly and its political influence in the institutional set-up of the European Community. The impact of this change extended to areas as diverse as the organisation of parliamentary business, the workings of parliamentary committees and intergroups, increased budgetary powers, the socio-professional profile of MEPs, the role of political groups, relations between MEPs and the Administration, changes in the Secretariat's establishment plan, relations with lobbyists, communication policy, the Assembly's activities in the context of the European Community's values and interinstitutional relations.

The Jean Monnet House: A place in Europe's history

In keeping with the wishes of Jean Monnet and his closest colleagues, who dreamt of seeing his family home transformed into a place in which young people could come together to discuss and share ideas, the European Parliament has made this public place of recollection a venue of choice for people seeking to learn more about the way the European Union works, and discover the environment in which one of the architects of today's Europe lived and worked. It was here that many of the plans which would have a decisive bearing on the future of France and Europe were drawn up. Close to Paris, but at the same time offering a refuge from the clamour of the French capital, it was here that Jean Monnet developed his vision of peace and European unity. The European Parliament bought the house in 1982. Today, managed on a day-to-day basis by the House of European History, the Jean Monnet House offers, through a permanent multimedia exhibition, an insight into both the private world of Jean Monnet and his career and political ideals. Since 2013, the Jean Monnet House has been officially recognised by the French Government as a 'Maison des Illustres' and is also part of the Network of Political Houses and Foundations of Leading Europeans, an initiative behind which the European Parliament is a driving force. Today, Parliament is breathing new life into the Jean Monnet House, in order to raise awareness of Monnet's work and to pass on his values of peace and solidarity to a wider public by organising new activities and hosting numerous events in Houjarray.

The ECSC Common Assembly's decision to create political groups: Writing a new chapter in transnational parliamentary history

Political groups in the European Parliament contribute greatly to the institution's supranational character and are a most important element of its parliamentary work. Moreover, the Parliament's political groups have proven to be crucial designers of EU politics and policies. However, when the forerunner of today's Parliament, the Common Assembly of the Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), was established in 1952, the creation of political groups was not envisaged at all. Making use of its autonomy with regard to writing its rules of procedures, the ECSC Common Assembly unanimously decided, at its plenary session in June 1953, to allow the creation of political groups. With this decision, the ECSC Common Assembly became the world's first international assembly organised in political groups. This briefing analyses the decision of the ECSC Common Assembly to create political groups by bringing together political and historical science literature on the topic, as well as original sources from the Parliament's Historical Archives that record considerations and motives for the decision to create political groups. It will illustrate the complementary cultural, historical, organisational and financial reasons for this decision. Furthermore, it will demonstrate that, for the first ECSC Common Assembly members, it was highly important to take account of political affiliations in order to highlight the supranational character of the newly emerging Assembly. Finally, the briefing highlights that common work within the political groups was essential in helping to overcome early difficulties between the Assembly's members with different national backgrounds.

Political groups in the European Parliament in figures: 1979 to 2019

Back in 1958, Ernst B. Hass, the first academic to study transnational party cooperation in European integration, wrote that their ability to build overlapping transnational organisations at European level made political parties essential drivers of political integration. Nevertheless, the early history of European transnational party cooperation has yet to be analysed systematically, let alone comprehensively. A few historical studies reconstruct the development of the predecessors of today's political parties at European level, but in-depth historical studies on the political groups in the European Parliament are virtually non-existent. This study aims to help to fill this gap in the research, by compiling figures on the historical development of the European Parliament's political groups from the Parliament's first direct election in 1979 up to the present day.

European Elections: a historical perspective

Between 23 and 26 May 2019, 350 million European Union(EU) citizens have the opportunity to vote for Members of the European Parliament. This will be the ninth time that EU citizens can vote directly for policy-and decision-makers who will represent them in EU politics. European elections are consequently one of the most important events in the EU political cycle. With a view to this year's European election and challenges to come for the new Parliament to be constitutionalised, many EU observers attach a special historical significance to this ninth European election. Looking back, while the very first European election was held forty years ago, in 1979, the journey to holding European elections was long and complex.

The establishment and initial work of the European Parliamentary Assembly after the Rome Treaties

The first Community assembly was the 'Common Assembly' provided for in the ECSC Treaty, and which operated as part of that Community from 1953 to 1958. The European Parliamentary Assembly was its historic and legal successor, but the establishment of the EEC and Euratom under the 1957 Rome Treaties meant that, as a single body serving the three Communities, it was no longer the seat of democratic representation for an organisation dealing with one sector, namely coal and steel, but of a system of Communities which embraced the entire range of productive activities and trade. In other words, the Community system was now dealing with the European economy as a whole, but there were still three Communities with three Treaties.

Two of those Treaties were similar to each other but the third, the ECSC Treaty, was significantly different in terms of distribution of powers. The problem therefore arose of coordination between the three Communities, the solution to which was considerably assisted by the merger of the executive bodies nine years later. It is to the European Parliamentary Assembly's credit that it immediately seized upon that issue and made it the subject of one of its first reports, which was drawn up and discussed over a relatively short time-scale, given that all Parliamentary proceedings on the matter were concluded within three months. This publication deals essentially with that report, setting it in the context of the broader debate on the nature and future of integration addressed at the sittings of the part-session of March 1958.

Shaping European Union: The European Parliament and Institutional Reform 1979-1989

Based on a large range of newly accessible archival sources, this study explores the European Parliament's policies on the institutional reform of the European Communities between 1979 and 1989. It demonstrates how the Parliament fulfilled key functions in the process of constitutionalization of the present-day European Union. They included defining a set of criteria for effective and democratic governance, developing legal concepts such as subsidiarity and pressurizing the Member States into accepting greater institutional deepening and more powers for the Parliament in the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty.

Major sporting events versus human rights: Parliament's position on the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina and the 1980 Moscow Olympics

Major sports events and politics are closely intertwined. Well-known historical examples of major sporting events that were used by regimes for political propaganda purposes are the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina and the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. The 1978 World Cup took place around two years after the Argentinian military regime's right-wing coup and its violent repression of critics, and was then the most political World Cup in the history of the International Federation of Association Football (Fédération Internationale de Football Association: FIFA). The 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow were the first to take place in eastern Europe and the first to be held in a socialist country. In addition, the 1980 Summer Olympic Games unleashed a hitherto, in the history of major sporting events, unprecedented boycott by 60 countries, in protest against the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. The European Parliament's involvement in the debates on the political reaction to these two major sporting events is a largely unknown aspect of the history of the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 Summer Olympic Games. This Briefing will reconstruct these debates and the policy action that followed, based on new analysis of sources held in the Parliament's Historical Archives, and demonstrates that the EP's leitmotiv was the violation of human rights in both countries. Furthermore, the Briefing shows that these debates set the basis for the EP's current policy action when it comes to major sports events in countries with a poor track record of human rights.

Impact of the ECSC Common Assembly on the politics, negotiation and content of the Rome Treaties

As the historical framework for the present-day European Union (EU), the Treaties of Rome, signed in March 1957 and establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom), are among the most important treaties of the European integration process. The failure to set up a European Defence Community in 1954 provided the incentive for the EEC Treaty to envisage integration in economic as well as political terms. Crucially, the Rome Treaties provided for the establishment of today's EU institutions, which have played a major role in securing the peaceful coexistence of Member States for the past sixty years. The Common Assembly (CA) of the European Coal and Steel Community (1952-1957) has long been overlooked as an important factor in the development of the Rome Treaties. As it was not directly involved in deliberations and negotiations on the treaties, it might easily be concluded that the CA did not play a significant role. This briefing demonstrates the very opposite. It was the CA that put the issue of an extended common market on the Community and Member States' political agenda, thereby relaunching European integration at a decisive moment in the EU's history. Furthermore, the CA effectively foreshadowed its future position and competences in a wider European community. The CA formulated demands for greater legislative and budgetary powers in order to overcome its subsidiary and consultative role. Given its political authority as the parliamentary representation of the people of the Community, the CA was successful in incorporating its demands into the deliberations and negotiations that led to the Rome Treaties.

30 Years of the Sakharov Prize: The European Parliament upholding freedom of thought

Keen to emphasise the democratic  principles of the European Community and, more recently, of the Union, the European Parliament has always been strongly committed to the protection of human  rights and fundamental freedoms. The Parliament fights against violations of human rights and of democratic principles and values, by means of political and legislative initiatives. For example, it observes elections, debates human  rights cases every month  during its Strasbourg sessions, and pushes for human  rights to be taken into account in trade deals. Since 1988, the European Parliament  has also supported human rights through the award every year of the Sakharov Prize for freedomof thought. The prize isawarded to individuals or organisations  that  have  made  an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights intheworld. It aims to draw attention to these  violations of human rights, while supporting the prizewinners themselves as well as the causes for which they are fighting.

The history of European electoral reform and the Electoral Act 1976: Issues of democratisation and political legitimacy

This new study, which forms part of the European Parliament History Series, looks at the long process that led to the first direct European elections, and shows that the 1976 Act was a disputed issue in the national public spheres of the Member States. After a first assessment of the 1979 elections, it analyses the strategy developed by the newly elected MEPs to establish a uniform electoral procedure. It finally examines the impact of the direct European elections on the EU political system itself as well as on its legitimation.

The first hemicycle of the European Parliament: Schuman Building, Luxembourg

In its early years, the European Parliament held its plenary sittings in different locations, made available by other institutions or by the host countries. It was only in 1973, with the construction of the Schuman Building in Luxembourg, that the Parliament finally had its own premises with a hemicycle (debating chamber) for its plenary meetings. Planned in the 1960s, with construction starting in 1970, the initial plans had to be adjusted to accommodate the expected enlargement of the Communities. In the 1970s, the hemicycle was used regularly for plenary sessions, but with the increase in the number of Members following the 1979 direct elections, the chamber was no longer large enough to hold all Members. The Luxembourg hemicycle is noted for the artistic value of its decor, in particular the zinc bas-relief created by the Turin-based NP2 Group. Thanks to interviews with the artists, this briefing provides details of the artwork, including the story of how the Italian company came to be commissioned by the Belgian contractor fitting out the chamber.

40th Anniversary of the 1976 Act on Direct Elections to the European Parliament

Between 7 and 10 of June, 1979, the first direct elections to the European Parliament by universal suffrage were held, thus signalling the end of a long and arduous attempt to institute this new degree of democracy in the European Community. Indeed, the effort spanned two decades, with the first draft Convention for direct elections having been submitted by Fernand Dehousse in 1960. Direct elections to the European Parliament had been mandated in the Treaty of Rome. Despite this, Mr Dehousse's draft Convention had little effect, until in 1972, with a push for European Union, it was felt that the time had come to act on it. However, such a long period had lapsed that the draft needed updating. This task was entrusted to Schelto Patijn in 1973, and by January of 1975 a new draft Convention on direct elections to the European Parliament was submitted. Fearing that these efforts might again fall by the wayside, the Parliament sought to do what it could to push toward the implementation of the draft Convention. In the lead-up to, and following several Council meetings during 1975 and 1976, the European Parliament was disillusioned at the lack of Council action. After a concerted effort on the part of a majority of Parliament, the Council signed the draft Convention into an Act on 20 September 1976. While this was seen as a great achievement, considering the extent to which the European Parliament had to lobby, MEPs recognised that this was merely the beginning, for there were many outstanding issues regarding the organisation of direct elections still to be addressed.

The European Parliament and the establishment of a European Ombudsman

This new study, which forms part if the European Parliament History Series, looks at the stances taken by the Parliament and by some of its committees, political groups and Members on the issue of the establishment of a European Ombudsman. Between the time when the idea of an ombudsman for the European Communities was first mooted in the mid-1970s, and the appointment of Jacob Söderman as the first European Ombudsman in July 1995, the Parliament changed its stance several times, first supporting the idea and then opposing it, before ultimately playing an active part in setting the office up. These changes of approval, and the reasons behind them, are examined in detail in this study. The studies in the European Parliament History Series are based on documents held and made available to the public by the Historical Archives of the European Parliament.

Democratic Change in Central and Eastern Europe 1989-90

The European Parliament and the end of the Cold War

This study analyses the events that led to democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe from the perspective of the European Parliament as detailed in its historical documents. It traces the discussions and opinions of Parliament over the years regarding
a) the events leading to democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe with special attention to the events around 1989 and
b) Post-communism and Eastern enlargement.

The Echelon Affair: The EP and the global interception system 1998 - 2002

This study, the first to appear in the new European Parliament History Series, retraces the work of Parliament and in particular of its Temporary Committee on the Echelon Interception System, following the revelation of the existence of a spy system managed by the United States and designed for non-military targets: governments, organisations and businesses virtually all over the world.

25 years of the Sakharov Prize: The European Parliament upholding freedom of thought

In November 2013, the European Parliament celebrated the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. To mark this historic occasion, Parliament's Historical Archives has published '25 years of the Sakharov Prize: the European Parliament upholding freedom of thought'. The publication traces the history of the prize, and profiles the nominees and winners, from when it was first awarded to the present day.

Equalising opportunities: The women's rights committees 1979-1999

This issue of our publications retraces the work during the first two decades of the Committee on Women's Rights, which played a large part in devising and implementing EU gender equality legislation.

Analytical Inventory - Parliamentary bodies for development cooperation (ACP) - the Period before the conventions to Lomé I (1958-1980)

This special edition is a search tool which gives a structured display of the analysis and the description of the fonds for parliamentary bodies concerned with the development of cooperation in ACP countries. This publication combines both a historical and an archival approach, retracing the beginnings of cooperation between the elected representatives of the Community and their counterparts in the African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

The Development Committees

This publication examines Parliament's development policy through its various cooperation and partnership agreements and the work of the relevant parliamentary committees from 1958 to 1999.

The European Parliament and the unification of Germany

This study describes the events that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and culminated in German unification, and the European Parliament's political initiatives in the context of this process.

The citizen's appeal to the European Parliament

This study focuses on one of Parliament's activities that might be considered secondary, but which is nevertheless significant because it is a way of bringing the institution closer to the specific problems that its citizens have in dealing with public administrations in areas that are within the competence of the Community.

Towards Direct Elections to the European Parliament

This study describes the initiatives taken by the European Parliament, and previously by the Common Assembly of the ECSC, to establish a system of direct elections to Parliament. These efforts were eventually crowned by the adoption of a Council Act which was essentially based on the text proposed by the European Parliament.

The Committees of the Common Assembly

This study outlines the work of the committees of the Common Assembly of the ECSC between 1952 and 1958. It includes three tables for each committee showing the composition of the committee (with changes), a list of its minutes and a list of its reports.

The European Parliament 50 years ago

The European Parliament celebrated in 2008 the 50th anniversary of its establishment. The celebrations included the publication of a work entitled 'The European Parliament 50 years ago' which outlines the structure of the Parliamentary Assembly established by the Treaties of Rome and describes its early activities.

Towards a Single Parliament

This study, with prefaces by the President and the Secretary-General of the European Parliament, illustrates the positions taken by the Common Assembly of the ECSC on the negotiations which led to the signature of the Treaties of Rome (EEC Treaty and Euratom Treaty). Many of the documents annexed are previously unpublished.