Thursday

25th May 2017

Focus

Nordic populist parties divided on which EP group to join

  • The Finns' Timo Soini would be keen on a political alliance with the British Conservatives or UKip (Photo: Mikael Brunila)

Right-wing populist parties from the Nordic countries are set to take different political paths after the European elections in May.

While the Sweden Democrats are looking towards the likely coalition between France’s National Front and the Dutch Freedom Party, the Danish People’s Party and The Finns party are seeking their political alliances elsewhere.

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"Our choice is between the EFD [Europe of Freedom and Democracy] and the ECR [European Conservatives and Reformists]," Timo Soini, chair of The Finns party, told EUobserver.

Both groups are dominated by British eurosceptics. The EFD is home to prominent eurosceptic Nigel Farage and his UKip party, while the Conservative party of Prime Minister David Cameron forms the main part of the ECR.

Soini's comment leaves little room for speculation and puts paid to the political aspirations of the party's radical faction.

Olli Immonen, MP and chairman of Suomen Sisu, a group with strong ties to Finnish neo-fascism, had just a few days earlier expressed a desire to see The Finns party in a much wider coalition.

"I wish that at least The Finns party, the French National Front, the Austrian and Dutch Freedom parties, the Danish People's Party and maybe Ukip would be in the same group," he said.

It was a show of support for attempts by the National Front's Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom party to create a common eurosceptic force, including many of the most prominent islamophobic parties on the continent.

So far this initiative seems to have fractured rather than united the European far-right.

"I cannot see myself in any constellation with this party," Morten Messerschmidt, MEP for the Danish People's Party, said last week, referring to the National Front.

The Danish People's Party and The Finns party are both currently in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group.

This puts the parties in a very different place to the Sweden Democrats which have on several occasions in the past year mentioned the possibility of working with the National Front.

"I don't know how enthusiastic we are about it, but to have any influence in the European parliament we have to be part of a group," Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson said in March.

Under the parliament's rules at least 25 MEPs from seven member states are needed to establish a political group.

Akesson, whose party is expected to win its first seats in the European parliament in May, later retracted his comment, saying the party had "yet to make a choice".

But with some other parties wary of hooking up with the Sweden Democrats, the choice might not be Akesson's to make.

In March Ukip’s Nigel Farage told the Swedish Daily Svenska Dagbladet that in relation to the Sweden Democrats: "My colleagues have some reservations about their youth league and some of their contacts around Europe."

This probably means that Akesson's party might have to choose between isolation and the ranks of Le Pen and Wilders.

But there is still one wild card on the table when it comes to European far-right coalitions: Germany's anti-euro AfD. The party was only founded last year but is expected to win several seats in the EU assembly come May.

The AfD is currently deliberating on whether to court UKip or the British Conservative Party – thus putting it out of play, for now, in the game of far-right coalition-making.

Much ado about Greece in Finnish EU elections

In Finland the European elections will be about Greece, at least if Timo Soini, chair of the radical right-wing populist party The Finns, previously known as the True Finns, gets his way.

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Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

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Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

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MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

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