Monday

23rd Sep 2019

Far-right aims to form group in European Parliament

Far-right politicians in the European Parliament are trying to form a political group in the Brussels assembly, possibly by the end of this year.

Bruno Gollnisch, MEP and secretary general of France's right wing National Front (FN), told EUobserver that his party has "reasonable hope" of forming a group in the parliament, whose rules require at least 19 members from five different member states.

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"We are expecting to build such a political party at the end of this year or the beginning of the next," said Mr Gollnisch.

Aside from the national front with seven MEPs, the Flemish Vlaams Belang (with three MEPs), the Austrian Freedom Party (1) and the Lega Nord (3) may also be involved, as well as some non-attached MEPs from other countries, including the UK.

A Polish contact also confirmed that three MEPs from Poland's the League of Polish Families are being included in the talks.

Mr Gollnisch said that the head of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is also an MEP, is planning to hold a rally from 10-12 November just outside Paris and is expecting many like-minded parties to join him from across Europe at the event.

"We should have a better idea of the situation in the middle of November," said Mr Gollnish adding that his party is busy building contacts.

Part of this contact-building will take place in Strasbourg this week to try and hammer out a political platform that the diverse parties can agree on.

Frank Vanhecke, MEP and chairman of the Vlaams Belang party, told EUobserver that "This is something we've tried very hard for many years" adding "we have now succeeded to get everyone around the table."

However, he was phlegmatic about the chances of the new group actually taking off.

"I've been in European circles long enough to be realistic and sceptical on the eventual outcome. We've tried this five times before and at those times it looked as good as it looks now," he said.

In 2001, an agreement between the Lega Nord, Vlaams Belang and National Front was deemed illegal by the European Court of Justice because it had no political substance.

The programme

This time the generally anti-immigrant and far-right parties are to put this right by setting up what Mr Vanhecke called a "minimum political programme" for the would-be European group.

He said it would include "recognition of the cultural diversity of Europe as a factor of richness" as well as "resistance to Turkish EU accession".

It is also likely to contain something on the "the recognition of traditional values; based on the Judeo-Christian heritage of Europe" and the "conservation of our identity."

At the moment MEPs from parties such as the National Front and the Vlaams Belang are all non-attached members of the European Parliament meaning they have no access to the committee chairs and other posts.

'Europe's bloody past'

Forming a group would give them a far greater say in the European Parliament, however, as well as certain legal entitlements – something likely to cause huge ripples of discontent among other mainstream groups in the EU assembly.

Reacting to the news of a possible far-right party, German conservative MEP and head of the parliament's foreign affairs committee Elmar Brok said "these people have learned nothing and only preach hate. They can't get anything off the ground together and can only agree on a negative programme."

"Democrats in Europe have to expose these parties and show European citizens how piteously little they achieve in answering today's questions and in solving the problems and worries of the people. They stand for Europe's bloody past," he added.

An earlier version of this article suggested that some MEPs from the UK Independence Party may join the group. This is not the case and we apologise for this error.

Plans for European far-right group intensify

The European Parliament looks set to have a far-right grouping within its corridors by mid-January, with MEPs from new member states Bulgaria and Romania helping to make the formation possible.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

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Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

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