• Flemish flags: The N-VA said Alde's mix of regionalism and federalism was 'hard to digest' (Photo: Chris Tank)

Post EU Elections

Anti-federalists nose ahead of liberals in EP

19.06.14 @ 09:24

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - The Flemish separatist N-VA party has opted to join the anti-federalist ECR group instead of the liberal Alde faction in the European Parliament.

Its decision is to see the ECR become the third largest in the assembly with 68 MEPs, beating Alde (67) and winning more speaking time in plenary and a better choice of committee seats.

N-VA announced the move late on Wednesday (18 June).

Its head of EU affairs, Johan Van Overtveldt, said in a statement the vast majority of N-VA members voted for ECR, a sizeable chunk for the Green group, and very few for Alde.

He noted the ECR is a “realistic” group.

“We reject the idea of ​​a European superstate, but at the same time we do not want to be completely negative [about the EU]. We are positive-critical of the European Union. In that regard, we are on the same wavelength.”

He said the N-VA would battle for human rights, fiscal discipline, and the creation of a banking union on the EU scene.

He added that Alde’s ideas were “difficult to digest” because its “euro-federalism” put in doubt the future of nation states in Europe.

For his part, Alde leader and former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt told Belgian media the N-VA move is “not good for the European project”.

He described the ECR, which is led by the British Tories, as “eurosceptic, if not anti-European” because it contains “far-right” elements like the True Finns and “populists” like the Danish People’s Party and the anti-euro Alternatif fur Deutschland.

He noted he had “extended his hand” to N-VA and “cleared all the obstacles” for it to join Alde.

The Belgian press described the N-VA decision as a “humiliation” for Verhofstadt.

His Open VLD party had on Tuesday voted in favour of N-VA’s Alde membership despite their diametrically opposed views on the unity of Belgium.

Verhofstadt also called a press conference on Wednesday expecting to announce that N-VA had come on board. But he was forced to cancel it before the bad news broke.

All political factions in the EP have to be formed by 24 June, after which committee membership and chairs will be decided.