Sunday

28th Aug 2016

Focus

Belgium's biggest party has no allies in the EP

  • The Flemish flag - the N-VA is the biggest party in Belgium (Photo: Aris Gionis)

With one month to go until the EU vote, it is clear that Belgium's biggest political party will have several MEPs but unclear whether it will wield any real influence in the next European Parliament.

The Flemish nationalist party N-VA is a political phenomenon on the domestic scene. After decades of being a small but active nationalist party, it was on the edge of disappearance ten years ago.

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Since then, thanks to the popularity of party leader Bart De Wever, it grew and grew, and is now the biggest party in Belgium.

Traditionally, N-VA was pro-Europe and progressive, which is why for the last five years their only MEP was part of the greens and regionalists faction in the EU assembly.

But the Belgian green parties do not want them back in that group as the N-VA now has a clear right-wing profile and is surfing the wave of euroscepticism.

It is difficult to have any influence in the EP without belonging to a political group, needing 25 MEPs from seven member states.

In the next European Parliament N-VA is set to have three or even four MEPs. There has been some interest in the N-VA from beyond Belgium. British Prime Minister David Cameron is said to be keen to get the Flemish nationalists into his conservative faction in the parliament. He has already had some contact with De Wever on the matter.

Mark Demesmaeker, the current N-VA member of parliament, has made no secret of the fact that he is against the idea of joining up with the eurosceptic British Conservatives - although it will be chairman De Wever who decides in the end.

Demesmaeker admits it is unclear what group his party will join.

“We’ll find a group where we can defend our programme. It won’t be extreme-left, it won’t be extreme-right and it won’t be eurosceptic.”

He also highlighted the fact that the political groups in the parliament house an array of parties from around Europe but might have few policies in common.

“A political group is not like a party in a national parliament. It’s more of a coalition”, says the MEP.

Meanwhile other political parties in Belgium are keen to play up the ‘homelessness’ of the N-VA.

They tell voters that it unclear what effect a vote for N-VA will have. Will it be a vote for the conservatives, for the greens or some other group - it’s a question the party remains unable to answer.

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