Tuesday

24th Apr 2018

Focus

EU liberals open door to Flemish separatists

  • Flanders flag: the Belgian opponents have common ground on EU affairs (Photo: crosby_cj)

Alde, the liberal group in the EU parliament, has cleared the way for the Flemish-separatist N-VA party to join its ranks.

It took the decision at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (17 June) in which the Belgian MR party of former EU commissioner Louis Michel was the only Alde faction to vote against the move.

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The N-VA is expected to make up its mind at a congress on Wednesday morning.

If it says Yes, Alde is likely to retain its position as the third largest political group in the EU assembly with 71 MEPs.

The liberals’ British, German, and Italian delegations took a hammering in the May elections.

But Tuesday’s vote also swelled its ranks by accepting 13 new MEPs from the Czech Republic, Germany, Portugal, and Spain.

The MR voted against N-VA because they are opponents on the Belgian political scene.

N-VA believes the wealthier, Flemish-speaking north of Belgium should split from the poorer, French-speaking south, while the MR wants to keep the country united.

Meanwhile, the addition of the new Spanish MEPs had threatened to see two existing Alde members, from the Spanish separatist Basque and Catalan regions, leave.

But the prospect of the N-VA joining the group, a widely-expected outcome, saw the Spanish separatists decide to stay.

“Today’s vote means that if they [N-VA] choose to submit an application, then we, in principle, have no objections,” an Alde source said.

“Verhofstadt has managed to square the circle, to work on European issues and not to get bogged down in Spanish or Belgian institutional issues,” he added, referring to Alde leader and former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt.

The N-VA's EU affairs spokesman could not be reached for a comment.

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Slovak liberals are weighing up whether to stick with the Liberal group in the European Parliament or try their luck with the anti-federalist ECR.

Anti-federalists nose ahead of liberals in EP

A last-minute decision by Flemish separatists to join the ECR group instead of Alde will mean more speaking time and better choice of committee seats for the anti-federalists.

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