Tuesday

23rd May 2017

Five Star seeks to join pro-EU liberal MEPs

  • Grillo sees no future with Nigel Farage (Photo: Optima Italia)

Followers of Italy's most popular party are set to vote online on whether to join the European parliament's liberal and pro-EU Alde party.

The vote follows a surprise announcement on Sunday (8 January) by the founder of the 5-Star Movement (M5S), Beppe Grillo, that he wanted to pull out of the eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD).

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The anti-establishment party arrived at the European Parliament in 2014 with 17 MEPs, with an aim, among others, to have Italy leave the euro.

It joined the EFDD, which counts Nigel Farage's Ukip among its leading members. It had also, at the time, attempted to join the Greens but was rejected.

Ukip gets dumped

But Grillo in his blog on Sunday said it was time to leave the EFDD because Farage had achieved his ambition for the UK to exit the EU.

"Farage has already abandoned the leadership of his party and British MEPs will leave the European parliament in the next legislature. Until then, our British colleagues will be focused on developing the choices that will determine the UK’s political future," Grillo wrote.

Grillo said it was pointless to remain part of a group without a "common political objective". He also noted the Five Star and Ukip had voted with each other only 20 percent of the time since 2014.

But his desire to join the liberal group headed by pro-EU federalist Guy Verhofstadt is a surprise to many of his supporters, including Farage.

The former Ukip leader, in a statement, described the move as "completely illogical" and said the Italian party was not likely survive with the liberals.

Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and keen supporter of the euro, is now campaigning to become the president of the European Parliament.

An alliance with Five Star would make Alde the third largest in the parliament, after the centre-right EPP and the centre-left Socialists. Alde currently has 68 MEPs.

"This means that in many cases we would hold the balance of power," said Grillo.

It would also make the EFDD the smallest group.

Five Star and Alde have voted together more than 50 percent of the time, according to Votewatch Europe, a Brussels-based NGO. The two diverge the most on issues linked to trade and the economy.

Verhofstadt and Grillo are expected to talk on Monday, and the Alde group to discuss Five Star's bid to join later in the afternoon.

Focus

Greens reject Beppe Grillo's offer to team up

The EP's Greens have rejected a request by Italy's Five Star movement for group membership. Meanwhile Ukip's Farage may have difficulty forming an EP political group.

MEPs vote to start democracy probe on Hungary

The European Parliament took the first step towards launching the Article 7 procedure against Hungary for backsliding on democracy. The process might lead to sanctions, but Orban is not backing down.

MEPs preparing to crack down on Orban

The EU assembly's largest group is split by its "enfant terrible", but enough MEPs are likely to abstain or vote Yes on the "Article 7" crackdown over Orban's illiberal rule.

Schulz fails to beat Merkel in German home state

Former EU parliament leader, Martin Schulz, says the defeat of his social-democrats in North Rhine-Westphalia is "difficult". The elections showed that a "Schulz effect" does not (yet) exist.

Austria heading for snap elections

Foreign minister Kurz has taken leadership of the conservative party in what could lead to an alliance with the far-right.

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