Saturday

25th May 2019

Liberal MEPs offer to join Macron 'movement'

  • 'We made the mistake, the soft pro-Europeans made the mistake, of not affording themselves the means [to control irregular migration],' Guy Verhofstadt said (Photo: European Parliament)

Liberal MEPs want to form an anti-nationalist "movement" with French leader Emmanuel Macron to contest the far right in next year's EU election.

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal group in the European Parliament (EP), unveiled the offer in an interview on Sunday (9 September).

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

  • Emmanuel Macron (c) is touring Europe to recruit like-minded politicians (Photo: nato.int)

"We're ready to create this alternative with Macron," Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, told French newspaper Ouest-France.

"It'll be something new - a movement, a pro-European alternative to the nationalists. Our group is ready to participate now, without waiting," he said.

"The goal is to create a decisive group in the future [EU] parliament - a tool to stop the nationalist wave," he added.

It remains to be seen if Macron's party, La Republique en Marche, takes up the offer.

"We're not ready for an alliance," Christophe Castaner, the party chief, told the Reuters news agency on Sunday.

But Macron and Castaner are currently touring the EU to recruit like-minded politicians to form a new pro-European platform by the end of the year.

The initiative comes after Macron declared himself the "main opponent" of a nationalist-populist axis led by Hungary and Italy.

The liberal Alde group has 68 MEPs in the EP. That figure could swell to over 100 in the new formation proposed with Macron's party.

Macron's project has also attracted centre-left politicians in Denmark and Sweden.

The platform could get even bigger if it attracted MEPs from the centre-right EPP group, amid an internal EPP conflict on whether Hungarian leader Viktor Orban is fit to remain a member of its ranks.

"These progressive solutions that we carry are the most respectful of the values of our Europe, but also the most efficient to face its challenges," Macron said after meeting the leaders of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands last week.

"We see this as a cooperation of the progressive forces that will combat the far right. We need to form a critical mass," Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, a Macron party MP, said.

Meanwhile, far-right forces coalesced further over the weekend, when Italian and Dutch populists met in the Italian town of Cernobbio on Saturday.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party in the Italian government, has also teamed up with Steve Bannon, a US hard-right media chief, who is opening a consultancy in Brussels to help the populist side win seats in next May's EU vote.

Salvini's cooperation with Bannon showed that "this is the place to be for the unifying of the populist movement in Europe," Mischael Modrikamen, Bannon's top man in Brussels said.

The far-right side, which hopes to win one third of seats in the EU vote, intended to create a "blocking power" in the EP that could paralyse EU legislation, Modrikamen said.

Verhofstadt, the EP liberal leader, told Ouest-France that migration would be a central issue in the campaign.

"It starts with the management of the EU's external borders. We made the mistake, the 'soft pro-Europeans' made the mistake, of not affording themselves the means [to control irregular migration]," he said, amid a surge in support for anti-migrant parties in Hungary, Italy, Austria, Germany, Poland, and Sweden.

Europe needed more "solidarity" on sharing asylum seekers, Verhofstadt said.

"It's precisely because there's an asylum system based on the country of entry, which denies solidarity, that we're stuck," he said.

The EU also needed to end its unanimity rule on homeland security and defence and foreign policy, Verhofstadt, a federalist, added.

"Do you want a world dominated by the Chinese empire, India, the Americans, the Russian Federation, while we meet four times a year and decide unanimously at 27? It doesn't work," he said, referring to the 27 EU states which will be left after Brexit.

"If we don't care [about the EU], it'll disappear. Nothing's forever," he said.

Interview

EU populists not actually that 'popular', says global activist

"The populists are not popular. It's 14 percent of the vote in Germany and smaller percentages in other countries," says global campaigner Ricken Patel, considering to use his organisation, Avaaz, to raise turnout in next year's European parliament elections.

EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'

EU leaders praised Theresa May's commitment to deliver an orderly Brexit - while they now brace themselves for an even more eurosceptic British prime minister.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  2. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  3. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  4. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  5. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  6. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  7. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  8. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Irish greens take Dublin in second EU exit poll
  2. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  3. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  4. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  5. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  6. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU
  7. Dutch socialists on top in first EP election exit poll
  8. No usage data kept for EU parliament's 'Citizens' App'

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us