Friday

24th Feb 2017

Focus

Tory EP group seeks alliance with new German anti-EU party

The anti-federalist group in the European parliament dominated by the British Tories, the ECR, is bullish about its future and shape in the forthcoming legislature.

Despite the mediocre result for British PM David Cameron’s party, which lost seven EP seats in last week’s elections, the overall situation of the group does not look bleak.

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  • David Cameron's Tories are keen to hook up with the anti-euro AfD in the new EP (Photo: number10.gov.uk)

The ECR has 46 members so far from seven states which means the conditions for forming a group are fulfilled.

In the outgoing parliament, the ECR had 57 MEPs and Jan Zahradil, a member of the group’s bureau from the Czech party ODS and one of the group’s negotiators with prospective partners, said the final number “will certainly be higher than current 46.”

“If things go smoothly, we may exceed 60 MEPs,” Zahradil told EUobserver.

If the ECR had over 60 members, it would overtake the Greens which are predicted to have 52 MEPs in the incoming parliament.

The anti-federalists are eyeing above all the German anti-euro AfD party, a newcomer party that has 7 MEPs.

Also in the spotlight is the one member of the Slovak Eurosceptic SaS party, Richard Sulik, who is hesitating between the liberals and the ECR.

Concluding an accord with these two partners would already make the group overtake the Greens, with 54 MEPs.

The ECR are also in talks with the Danish People’s party and the Finnish “Finns”. They both have four mandates but both of them sat with the UKIP-dominated EFD group in the outgoing legislature.

MEP Zahradil is tasked specifically with negotiations with the AfD. He went to Brussels earlier this week for a talk with the Germans and said he wants them on board.

“They have indisputable credit and are very knowledgeable. It would boost the group’s know-how and ranking, too, when it comes to the financials and the euro,” Zahradil said, in reference to the fact that the ECR has been dominanted by non-euro states.

“The AfD is definitely interested in ECR,” he continued.

If they join, the AfD would become the third largest member of the ECR group, after the Tories and the Polish conservatives from the PiS.

The dynamic of the ECR has changed.

The group has been dominated by the Tory party and the Czech civic democrats since its creation in 2009 but the EU vote brought about a defeat to both of them.

The British are on 20 MEPs down seven mandates, the Czechs on two only, also down seven.

By contrast the PiS scored 19 mandates, up from six.

“It’s clear that the Anglo-Czech axis will be replaced by the Anglo-Polish axis in the ECR. The Brits and the Poles came almost equal,” acknowledged Zahradil.

Despite him being one of the founding fathers of the ECR and now sidelined by the popular vote, he says there is no bad feelings.

“I don’t put any emotions to it,” says the re-elected MEP. “I’m still the chairman of the ECR in Europe and that will be the focal point of my activity,” he added.

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