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24th Feb 2020

New 'ID' far-right EU parliament group falls short

  • Marine Le Pen (centre) is flanked by other far-right leaders at the launch of the 'ID' European parliament party grouping today - which replaces the previous Europe of Nations and Freedom group (Photo: EUobserver)

With 73 MEPs under its wing, the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) political group on Thursday (13 June) announced its formation - at a press conference regularly disrupted by applauding supporters.

The populist alliance is now set to become the fifth-largest group, far behind the majority of pro-EU factions that make up some two-thirds of the 751-seat plenary.

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It also means campaign promises made in mid-April between French National Rally leader Marine Le Pen and far-right Italian deputy minister Matteo Salvini to bring all eurosceptic factions under the same umbrella fell short.

Jussi Halla-Aho, Finns Party leader and ID member, appeared disappointed.

"There are parties in the European Parliament that should be here today but which have so far decided otherwise. I don't want to criticise those parties but I want to remind them that our door remains open," he told reporters.

His comments may have been directed towards Poland's ruling Law and Justice party, whose 26 MEPs have no interest in building ties with Russia, unlike other ID members such as Le Pen and Jorg Meuthen from the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The UK's Nigel Farage and his new Brexit party have also refused to join the ID.

ID seeks to weaken the role of the European Union, while claiming to protect national identity from perceived outside threats.

"We are not here to make friends, we are here to be a thorn in the flesh of the establishment, they want to create a European superstate, a United States of Europe, an identity-free non-entity," said Meuthen of the pro-EU groups.

73 MEPs but '200 votes'?

Among the nine speakers on Thursday was Le Pen, who attempted to dismiss the relevance of MEP numbers while also claiming ID was part of "a sovereignist bloc of more-or-less 200 votes" within the European Parliament.

She later told reporters that those 200 votes will be drawn from other parties in other groups who share similar positions on issues like migration.

She noted, as examples, Hungary's Fidesz party (inside but currently suspended from the centre-right European People's Party) as well as Spain's right-wing Vox party, which may end up in the European Conservatives Reformists group (ECR).

"We will have a different political conduct in the European parliament, this fills us with enthusiasm," said Le Pen, who has in the past been charged for defrauding the EU taxpayer.

Le Pen, along with Salvini, had sought to create the third or even second-largest political grouping in the European parliament in the lead up to the European elections.

Euro or no euro?

Similar pronouncements of unity had also been made by the two in Germany in early 2017 at a separate far-right rally. It too largely failed to deliver given personal animosities and other differences.

But ID, with 73 MEPs, may still secure some key positions at the new parliament, gaining greater influence than its smaller Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) predecessor.

It is unclear which committee chairs they hope to obtain and ID's president, Marco Zanni from the League party, refused to speculate.

Instead, he told reporters that the group has set its priorities on security, migration, and economic policy.

"Fiscal space should be in the hands of the member states and should be dealt with by them as they see fit," he said, in what appears to be a tilt against the EU, in the wider budget deficit dispute with Rome.

That position may however be at odds with some of the more fiscally-conservative members of the same group.

Halla-Aho, for instance, wants a more centralised budgetary control to avoid another financial crisis.

"The other way to solve this issue is to dismantle the common currency and the eurozone," he said. When pressed, he told this website that the EU would be better off without the euro altogether.

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