7th Jun 2023

New EU political group open to Libertas members

  • An EU election video booth - the new group will unveil its name and composition after 7 June (Photo: EUobserver)

An emerging anti-federalist political group in the European Parliament would be open to take in Libertas members, if the anti-treaty party is unable to form a group itself.

The British Conservative party, the Czech Republic's ODS and Poland's Law and Justice party are currently in talks with several smaller parties to form a new anti-EU integration group after the elections next month.

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The new group aims to unveil its name and full membership shortly after the election result on 7 June.

Jan Zahradil, the head of the ODS delegation in Brussels, told EUobserver on Thursday (14 May) that more than four smaller parties have already signed up, but do not want to go public yet.

"They are junior parties, the kind that might get one, two or three MEPs in the elections," he said.

The junior parties come from both 'old' and 'new' member states. Some of them are in the existing, right-leaning European People's Party (EPP-ED) and Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN) groups in parliament and some have never sent MEPs to Brussels before, the Czech politician revealed.

The new group expects to get at least 65 MEPs, which would make it the fourth largest in parliament.

Mr Zahradil said the group is also interested in taking in MEPs from the Libertas party, if Libertas politicians find themselves stranded after the EU vote.

"I believe we can negotiate on some of the political issues that are now being discussed within Libertas. My feeling is, they will not make it in seven countries. If they cannot establish their own group, in my opinion this [taking in Libertas MEPs] is perfectly negotiable," he said.

"I assume they wouldn't want to be 'non-inscrit'."

Under EU rules, a political movement has to have at least 25 MEPs coming from seven EU countries in order to form a "group." Group status gives the right to good places in parliament committees, access to meetings of top officials, more speaking time in plenary and greater financial resources.

Independent, or 'non-inscrit,' MEPs are usually condemned to obscurity.

Fitting in

Any potential link-up with Libertas, seen as a dangerous upstart by the EU establishment, might prove tricky for the British Conservatives and Poland's Law and Justice. Both parties see themselves as part of the political mainstream despite their anti-integrationist views.

A spokesman for the British Conservative EU delegation said it "does not give a running commentary" on the new group's formation. Law and Justice also declined to speak.

But Mr Zahradil said that some of Libertas' ideas fit in with the new group's agenda.

Both sides dislike the Lisbon treaty and oppose further transfer of national sovereignty to the EU, he explained. "If the Lisbon treaty did not come into force due the German court or the Irish referendum, we could live with that. The EU does not need this treaty," the Czech politician said.

The German constitutional court is currently debating the compatibility of the treaty with German law. It also faces a second referendum in Ireland, expected in October.

Mr Zahradil ruled out co-operation with any of the more controversial Libertas figures, however.

Czech Libertas candidate Vladimir Zelezny was this week convicted on tax evasion charges. The recent former head of Poland's far-right League of Polish Families party, Wojciech Wierzejski, is running for Libertas in Poland.

"We are not going to negotiate with people like the League of Polish Families," Mr Zahradil said.

Asked if Libertas' leader, Irish businessman Declan Ganley, would be welcome in the new group, the Czech politician cast doubt on Mr Ganley's intention to become an MEP if elected. "The question is, how serious he is in his own running," Mr Zahradil said.

In full swing

For its part, Libertas denied making any contingency plans for failure in the EU vote.

"Our sights are firmly set on forming a Libertas group within the European Parliament," a spokeswoman told this website. "We are not considering other options."

Libertas is this week making headlines across eastern Europe after paying Polish anti-Communist hero and Nobel laureate Lech Walesa to speak at its rallies in Rome and Madrid.

Mr Walesa in Madrid on Thursday voiced support for the Lisbon treaty and at the same time wished the anti-treaty party "success" for the sake of pluralism in EU debate.

"I'm here to talk about freedom and democracy, to say, we are building Europe together, that there is a place for everybody," he said. "I would talk with the devil himself, just to tell him, that I love God."

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