Parliamentary Friendship Groups are groups of members of the European Parliament (EP) who voluntarily organise themselves to promote parliamentary relations between EP and another country’s (or even a region’s group of countries’) parliament(s), and, in a broader scope, to foster the bilateral relations between said countries.
This involves exchanges of information and opinions. In parallel to discussions with their peers, groups also organize meetings with government and civil-society representatives. All these encounters offer numerous opportunities for the participants to discuss differing worldviews and learn from each other.
Parliamentary friendship groups are formed on a cross-party basis and do not have statutes or rules of procedures of their own. Joining a group reflects a Member’s special interest with the partner state or states for which it is responsible. The decision to get involved in a particular parliamentary friendship group may be prompted by existing personal links, a strong concern with a particular aspect of foreign policy, the proximity of the Member’s constituency to the country in question or economic and cultural ties between their constituency and the partner state.
Members of a parliamentary friendship group seek to meet as often as possible with politicians from their partner state to discuss topics and problems in which they share a common interest. This also enables them to explain and communicate their positions. Apart from these contacts parliamentary friendship groups come together to hold meetings with their members, hear lectures and conduct discussions about the political situation in their partner states. There are also exchange visits. These trips help to foster better understanding as well as deepening existing contacts. Talks are almost marked by a very frank and informal atmosphere. Members of parliamentary friendship groups do not have to pay as much attention to the niceties of international diplomacy as government representatives. They can articulate their points of view clearly, even in difficult contexts or when discussing sensitive issues.
Parliamentary friendship groups do not have their own budgets and are therefore not in a position to award grants for humanitarian initiatives. Nor are they able to carry out research for third parties or assemble information materials. However, members of the parliamentary friendship group executives, are of course, always interested in relevant, up-to-date information about their partner state.