22nd Sep 2019

Parliament nations group gets a power boost

Mid-term political shuffles in the European Parliament have given a major boost to a rightist nations group while the assembly's eurosceptic group has lost five of its members.

The Union of Europe of the Nations (UEN) got the new members on Wednesday (13 December) boosting its numbers to 44 and making it the parliament's fourth largest group, bumping the Greens down to fifth place.

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After extensive networking, the group managed to pull in five Polish MEPs from the eurosceptic Independence/Democracy group as well as four non-attached MEPs from the right wing Lega Nord and another Polish MEP from the Socialist group.

The greater numbers means more influence in the European Parliament with groups above 41 members allowed a vice-presidency position in the assembly.

"That means we have the right to more positions such as a vice-president post, a conference of committee chairman post and five committee chairmen posts," said Danish right-wing MEP and UEN member Mogens Camre.

He explained that there might not be complete political and religious agreement between all the members in his group – the old and the new – but that it was good for the MEPs from the smaller groups as they would have a bigger say in the parliament's balance of power by being in a stronger faction.

A parliament official however painted a less rosy picture saying that "although the UEN would gain somewhat in influence…the group is still small in relation to the big groups" such as the centre-right EPP, the socialists and the liberals.

The Independence/Democracy group, by contrast, took a knock on Wednesday.

Speaking about the defection of the five Polish MEPs, leaving the group with 23 members, chair of the group Jens-Peter Bonde said their move "has no effect" politically but added "it's obvious that we cannot continue to lose members."

According to parliament regulations, a political group must have 19 members from at least five different EU countries.

"If a political group falls under the limit it will cease to be a group and it would either have to find other members or the MEPs would have to become non-attached MEPs," a parliament official told EUobserver.

However, such group reshuffles are only likely to be the beginning of the process with much more political intrigue expected in the next few weeks.

There are still behind-the-scenes attempts to get a far-right party off the ground while the EU membership of Bulgaria and Romania - bringing 18 and 35 MEPs respectively – from January will also provide for some more re-jigging of groups.

Eurosceptics kick out Italian Lega Nord party

The eurosceptic group in the European Parliament has kicked out four members of the Italian Lega Nord, while seven Polish deputies also moved from the group and joined the non-attached MEPs.

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.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

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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