Friday

19th Apr 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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”.

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.

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us