Tuesday

11th Dec 2018

Socialists urge political embargo against far-right group

Socialist leader Martin Schultz is set to urge other political groups in the European Parliament to join forces and sideline the new far-right faction once it is formally confirmed next week, while calling for higher thresholds for deputies to form a new group.

The new far-right group – calling itself "Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty" likely to be formally constituted next week- teams up a mixed bunch of anti-immigrant and xenophobic MEPs, with a leader who is awaiting a court verdict for questioning the Holocaust.

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Under the current rules in the parliament, the group would be entitled to get one or two committee vice-chairman positions. But agreement on this is at committee level, with members themselves voting in secret ballots.

The socialists have come out with an initiative to formally call their political counterparts to "keep them (the far-right group) out of decision-making" by ensuring their candidates do not get elected, the group's spokesman told journalists on Friday (12 January).

While the other groups point out that the existing rules must be followed and the group cannot formally be deprived of its entitlements, they have agreed with the idea of a political embargo.

The far-right group's position will be precarious, commented the centre-right EPP-ED's spokesman, adding that given the committees would vote for their vice-chairmen, "I can't see any of my members voting for its candidates."

A liberal spokesman added "If they are entitled for a third or fourth vice-president of a fisheries committee for example, I find it intellectually interesting to see how they would introduce their racist propaganda there."

New rules only for new parliament

Some mainstream deputies share a view that the far-right members will remain marginal and isolated in the EU legislature.

Greens leader Monica Frassoni said the group's creation "is a sad reflection of the reality of today's Europe," but added that in practice, not much will change.

"The extreme right MEPs already sit in this house and the fact that they are organised in a political group will not give them more influence in the parliament. They will remain marginal."

But the latest developments have sparked a debate about the need for a new set of procedural rules in the EU assembly, reflecting its expansion from 732 to 785 MEPs after Bulgaria and Romania joined the 27-country block on 1 January.

At the moment, 20 deputies from six different member states are required for a new political group to be set up, entitling its members to extra EU cash, jobs and chairs in the parliament.

The socialists argue that the ceilings are too low and should be changed.

But the centre-right's spokesman said on Friday that the groups had already previously agreed that any changes would only be adopted for the next parliament - to be elected in 2009 - as it would be "unfair to change the rules in the middle of the current parliamentary term."

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