Sunday

23rd Feb 2020

MEPs freeze out extreme right group

MEPs have rallied together against members of the European Parliament's new far-right group to exclude them from key positions in parliament committees.

Two far-right candidates from the new Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty group (ITS) had been nominated for vice-chairman posts in the parliament's culture and transport committees, but on Thursday (1 February) MEPs ditched normal procedures and called for secret balloting, which the candidates lost out in.

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Under parliament rules a vote can be called if 1/6 of committee members ask for it.

"The parliament operated in a legal but, shall we say, slightly unfair fashion when they demanded votes," said one parliamentary insider, according to AFP.

Under current parliament rules, the ITS group was entitled to two vice-chairmen posts. The chairmen and vice-chairmen in the remaining 20 committees were endorsed without a vote.

"We cannot have the extreme right wing to lead our committee," Spanish liberal Ignasi Guardans Cambo told Swedish daily Göteborgs-Posten (GP).

"A vice-chairman is our face to the outside. In the culture committee we cannot have a vice-chairman who works against immigration," he said after the vote.

It was Mr Guardans and Austrian socialist Christa Prets who had called for a secret vote when deciding on the nomination of ITS' Romanian MEP Viorica-Pompilia-Georgeta Moisuc.

The vote resulted in one in favour and 34 against leading to the Hungarian conservative Pal Scmitt becoming the vice-chairman instead.

"It's natural. They don't know me yet," Ms Moisuc - a christian nationalist seeking to promote European culture and modernisation of Roma and Muslim mentality - told GP.

Italian far-right MEP Luca Romagnoli faced the same fate in the transport committee.

"I thought that the European parliament had a high democratic level – that it was an example for democracy and minority rights. But it is not like that at all," Mr Romagnoli said.

"We are treated like pariahs. That shows what kind of hypocrites they are," he said about his fellow parliamentarians.

Socialist leader Martin Schultz last month urged other political groups in the parliament to join forces and sideline the new far-right faction and also called for higher thresholds for deputies to form a new group.

The group was created on 9 January after MEPs from the new member states Bulgaria and Romania joined the parliament and managed to get just the threshold number of deputies needed under EU rules - 20 MEPs from six different member states.

The diverse group houses politicians from Romania's xenophobic and anti-Roma Greater Romania Party, through to France and Belgium's anti-immigrant National Front and Vlaams Belang.

The group also includes Andrew Mölzer (an Austrian MEP kicked out of a far-right party in Austria for being too extremist), Dimitar Stoyanov (a Bulgarian MEP who caused a ruckus in the parliament last year when he circulated a derogatory email about Roma people) and Alessandra Mussolini (the granddaughter of Italy's former dictator).

The group is headed by Bruno Gollnisch, a member of the National Front who was recently fined by a French court for remarks made in 2004 putting the Holocaust into question.

Their political charter is broadly anti-immigration, anti-EU constitution and anti-Turkish EU membership.

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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.

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Far-right MEPs have managed to club together in the European Parliament getting enough members to form a political group entitling them to EU funds. French and Romanian deputies form the backbone of the group.

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