Tuesday

21st Feb 2017

Focus

Slovak Liberals unsure of EP group

Just hours after the new European Parliament was shaped, the leader of Slovakia's liberals and newly-elected MEP, Richard Sulik, drew a question mark over his membership of the third largest group.

"We are not connected by an umbilical cord," Sulik said on Slovak Radio on Monday (26 May), expressing unease over some views held by the liberal ALDE group.

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  • Slovak liberal MEP Richard Sulik promised voters to stand against the idea of more Europe (Photo: CEA)

It is a vision of a more integrated Europe – often articulated by Guy Verhofstadt, the liberal leader in the EU Parliament – which Sulik has reservations about.

"I cannot exclude becoming a member of a different group," he said. "I have promised my voters to stand against the idea of more Europe."

While Verhofstadt often makes the case for more Europe, Sulik's Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS) is considered eurosceptic.

Speaking to EUobserver, Sulik, who will be the only SaS MEP, appeared to play down the differences, however.

"It's not a matter of urgency," he said. "We don't like certain goals of ALDE, but I want to discuss the group's plans first."

Sulik is said to have close ties with the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which has won seven seats in the European Parliament and is eyeing a place among anti-federalist conservatives (ECR).

According to sources, he is considering taking the same path.

However, the ECR family is itself no guarantee of harmony.

The Slovak liberal would find himself in the company of Law and Justice (PiS), the party of Poland's former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Unlike SaS, it is nationalist and conservative on issues such as abortion and gay rights.

"The group's official line is what counts," he told EUobserver when asked about possible differences.

According to Zuzana Gabrizova, journalist and EU expert, Sulik's Freedom and Solidarity can find a common ground with both, ALDE and ECR formations.

Combative rhetoric on Brussels' bureaucracy, the Parliament's seat in Strasbourg or financial transaction tax is something shared with the conservatives. European and Slovak liberals, on the other hand, have the same message when it comes to pro-business policies.

The ALDE group is not as federalist as Verhofstadt's personal vision of the EU, Gabrizova also noted.

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