21st Jan 2018

Czech and British conservatives pledge new EP party

British conservative opposition leader David Cameron and Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek have renewed their pledge to form a new political party in the European Parliament.

In a joint letter published in the UK daily The Telegraph on Tuesday (6 March), the two politicians write:

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"We are committed not only to establishing a new political grouping in the European parliament, but also to making the EU fit for the 21st century."

The two sides, both eurosceptic, have long politically flirted with one another but have so far failed to put their words into action.

Last year, Mr Topolanek postponed plans to set up the new party until 2009 - the year of the next European elections - because talk of setting up a eurosceptic party was complicating his own government coalition-building at home.

Meanwhile, a large part of Mr Cameron's campaign before he was elected leader of the British Conservatives in late 2005 was taken up with his approach to Europe.

He pleased traditional conservatives in Britain by promising he would set up his own faction within the European Parliament taking UK conservative MEPs out of the pro-European integration European People's Party (EPP), the biggest faction in the EU assembly.

However, others are worried that conservatives in Europe will be marginalized if their new group does not get many other signatories, with group speaking time, staff allocations and representation in the parliament all dependent on its size.

Along with Mr Topolanek's Civic Democrats, also part of the EPP, a group with MEPs from both countries would currently come to 41 - the EPP at the moment has 277 members.

The joint letter, promoting their Movement for European Reform to be launched formally today in Brussels, says the bloc should be underpinned by three central ideas - commitment to open markets, that the EU should be "committed to a Europe of nation states" and that it should be "committed to a strong transatlantic relationship."

The letter also expressed opposition to the EU constitution saying it is indicative of the EU's "default response" of reacting to challenges by always reaching for "more power."

But speaking in Brussels yesterday, the Czech prime minister said he would not block any new treaty so long as it is short and reasonable.

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The Czech Republic is likely to hold a referendum if the upcoming re-negotiations on the EU constitution result in a similar-style text, the Czech deputy prime minister has said, raising the prospect of a new stumbling block to an early settlement of the divisive issue.

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The two biggest parties in Catalonia have vowed to put Puigdemont back in office despite Madrid's threat to maintain direct rule.

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