Monday

22nd Jan 2018

Liberal MEPs block alliance with anti-euro Grillo

  • Liberal MEPs rejected Verhofstadt's bid to obtain the Italian populist parties' support (Photo: European Parliament)

The liberal leader in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt had to backtrack on a planned alliance with Italian politician Beppe Grillo on Monday (9 January) after his own troops rebelled against the move.

Grillo, the anti-euro and anti-migrant leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), Italy's most popular party, had announced on Sunday that he was leaving the eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the parliament, led by Ukip's Nigel Farage, to join the liberal Alde group.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Verhofstadt sought to add the 17 M5S MEPs to the 68-strong Alde group, becoming the third largest group in the parliament, and boosting his bid for the parliament's presidency 10 days before the vote.

Some 79 percent of M5S supporters endorsed the move in an internet vote on Sunday and Monday. But Verhofstadt had to give up his plan only 20 minutes into a meeting with national delegations of his group on Monday evening.

“I have come to the conclusion that there are not enough guarantees to push forward a common agenda to reform Europe," he said in a statement.

"There remain fundamental differences on key European issues, like the euro" the former Belgian prime minister added.

He said that "on issues of shared interest, such as the environment, transparency and direct democracy, the Alde Group and the Five Star Movement will continue to work closely together," however.

The MEPs' blockade is a setback for Verhofstadt who hoped to clinch the parliament's presidency as a compromise candidate against the conservative and socialist candidates.

A vote on the unexpected Alde-M5S marriage was supposed to take place among the liberal group on Tuesday (10 January), but it quickly became clear on Monday that liberal MEPs considered the populist Italian party as going directly against their core values.

Some liberal MEPs were struck by the notion that one of Europe's populist, anti-euro parties should become the biggest gathering within the pro-EU, federalist liberal group.

Several Alde member parties, in Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Estonia said they would not support M5S joining the group.

Former Estonian prime minister Taavi Roivas, in particular, came out to criticise the proposed deal and tweeted that "staying true to your values is more important than size."

Kaja Kallas, an Estonian MEP, told this website that the political differences between M5S and the liberals were too big.

"The biggest issue is the difference in policies, look at their antiglobalist, anti-Europe, nationalistic policies and what we stand for. They are anti-euro and supported Brexit, both of which are weakening the EU. We think all member state benefit from the union," Kallas said.

She also voiced concern that with its 17 MEPs, M5S would become the biggest party within the Alde group and could set its tone, which would mean a fundamental change for the group.

Another faultline was that while liberal MEPs have voiced concern over Russian meddling in European affairs, Grillo's party supports lifting EU sanctions against Russia.

Most liberal MEPs were kept in the dark during negotiations between Grillo and Verhofstadt, adding to the discontent about a possible merger.

According to a leaked copy, the agreement between Verhofstadt and Grillo gave a role in the group leadership for the M5S in exchange for their support for the Belgian politician's bid for president, shedding light on previous negotiations between the two party leaders.

Grillo explaining

On Sunday, Grillo justified his proposed switch to the liberals arguing that as Ukip had achieved its goal to lead the UK out of the EU, the EP group had lost its political objective.

However, in a letter titled ‘Dear Nigel' posted on his blog on Monday, he made it clear that M5S wanted to use the liberal group to achieve its shared goals with Ukip.

"The 5 Star Movement's battle has yet to come, and to win it we evaluated to go to another political group in the European Parliament because, in this way, we think we can deal with more concentration both, you and us, the next challenges,” he wrote in English.

"We can change this world,” he added.

What will happen to the M5S MEPs is unclear. Before Alde turned down Grillo's offer to join, Farage had said in a statement that "Beppe Grillo will now join the Euro-fanatic establishment”.

Focus

Grillo MEPs to join Farage group after referendum

Members of Italy's Five Star Movement Thursday voted to join forces in the EP with British eurosceptic leader Nigel Farage, in a controversial referendum in which members were offered limited choices.

Centre-right reveals 2014 EU parliament deal

Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right EPP group, says socialist and liberal leaders have to stick to their pledges and let EPP's Antonio Tajani become parliament president.

Catalonia prepares for rule by Skype

The two biggest parties in Catalonia have vowed to put Puigdemont back in office despite Madrid's threat to maintain direct rule.

News in Brief

  1. Abbas in Brussels to discuss Palestinian state recognition
  2. Exiled Catalan leader leaves Belgium for first time
  3. CSU politicians set to oppose concessions to SPD
  4. Greek mass protests against use of 'Macedonia' in name dispute
  5. Oxfam report reveals inequality as Davos elite gather
  6. Macron: France would probably have voted to quit EU
  7. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  8. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. New Polish foreign minister tries to charm EU commission
  2. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  3. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  4. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  5. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  6. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  7. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  8. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap