Friday

7th May 2021

EU parliament sees birth of new right-wing group

  • David Cameron (c) at Oxfam meeting - the image-conscious politician risks being labelled a friend of "racists and homophobes" (Photo: net efekt)

A new European Parliament group that is pro-free market and anti-EU integration unveiled its membership list on Monday (22 June), bringing together 55 MEPs from eight EU states.

Calling itself the "European Conservatives and Reformists Group," the new faction lists "free enterprise," the "sovereign integrity of the nation state" and "probity in the EU institutions" among its principles.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The British Conservative party dominates membership with 26 MEPs, followed by Poland's Law and Justice with 15 deputies and the Czech Republic's ODS party with nine members.

The other five MEPs come from the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Hungary and Latvia.

The roll call is: Peter van Dalen from the Netherlands' Christian Union party; Derk Jan Eppink of Belgium's Lijst Dedecker; Hannu Takkula from Finland's Keskusta party; Lajos Bokros from the Hungarian Democratic Forum and Roberts Zile of the Latvian National Independence Movement.

"Talks are still continuing and we believe that more will be attracted to join our ranks in the near future," the head of the British Conservative delegation, Timothy Kirkhope, said.

The new group narrowly meets the parliament rule of having deputies from at least seven EU states. But it is set to become the fourth largest in terms of MEP numbers, after the centre-right EPP-ED group, the centre-left PES and the liberal ALDE faction.

It will qualify for an EU budget grant of around €3.9 million a year and will be assigned staff of between 65 and 70 EU civil servants, on top of the 55 MEPs and their personal advisors and secretaries.

The group will also get chairmanship of one of the parliament's powerful law-making committees and one sub-committee. But the biggest groups will snap up the top seven or so juiciest portfolios, such as foreign relations, industry or environment, leaving the newcomers with a decent, but second-tier option such as the budgetary control committee.

The birth of the European Conservatives and Reformists is a small piece of EU parliament history, ending 17 years of the British Conservative party's work with the EPP-ED.

The head of the Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, on Monday told Polish daily Rzeczpospolita that talks to form the new group began in 2002, two years before Poland and the Czech Republic joined the EU.

Potential for strife

The group's three main parties are united in their opposition to the Lisbon treaty, which augurs further EU integration. But there is plenty of potential for internal squabbles.

The Polish and Latvian parties have protectionist wings that do not welcome Tory and ODS-style free trade.

The British Conservatives also have a prominent pro-green and civil liberties agenda. Meanwhile, ODS founder Vaclav Klaus denies that human action impacts climate change. And Mr Kaczynski has Roman Catholic views on gay rights.

"I'd be surprised if they survive two years," one EU parliament official said. "A lot depends on the British Conservatives and how embarassed they might be by the antics of the eastern European members."

Analyst Antonio Missiroli from the Brussels-based European Policy Centre said the group could falter if Tory leader David Cameron gets into power in the UK, with EU states forcing him to either embrace Lisbon or take Britain out of the union.

"If the Tories win on a eurosceptic platform, they might get a reality check on Libson," Mr Missiroli said.

"He may have to reconsider this decision and go back to the [EPP-ED] fold. As a government party, he could not play a double game, doing one thing in the Council [EU member states' ministerial meetings] and another thing in parliament."

'Realignment of the right'

London School of Economics professor Simon Hix said the European Conservatives and Reformists could create a strongly pro-free market bloc with EPP-ED and ALDE in the parliament instead of concentrating on Lisbon.

The new bloc would have over 400 out of 736 MEPs, potentially putting the previous parliament alliance of Christian Democrats and Socialists out of business.

"The Tories must be preparing themselves for an onslaught in the British press - that they have joined up with climate change deniers, racists and homophobes. But I don't think this will last very long," he said.

"We are seeing something interesting in the parliament: a realignment of the right. This European Parliament will be much more to the right than before."

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

Analysis

Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves

The debate over Fidesz had become an unbearable political burden on EPP - but it also represented a core dilemma for many centre-right, mainstream parties struggling to deal with their populist challengers.

EPP group moves forward to suspend Orban's Fidesz

MEPs are scheduled to vote on Wednesday to change the rules of procedure of the centre-right European People's Party parliamentary group to allow the suspension of a member party.

News in Brief

  1. Israel study: Two Pfizer doses give over 95% protection
  2. Barnier calls Johnson a 'bulldozer' in Brexit memoirs
  3. Hungary and Poland prevent 'gender' in summit declaration
  4. Draghi: Italy to welcome foreign tourists from mid-May
  5. Germany announces new, stricter, emission cuts
  6. Channel Islands 'blockade' threat in UK and France row
  7. French reporter kidnapped by rebels in Mali
  8. Trump's Facebook ban upheld but with caveats

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Greek prisons accused of abusing detainees
  2. EU and US join up against China on Taiwan
  3. Conservatives' Covid-strategy wins in lockdown-fatigue Madrid
  4. Commission drafts new rules targeting foreign state aid
  5. Why Europe should stop worrying about 'sportswashing'
  6. Conference on Future of Europe must listen to local voices
  7. What happens now to the EU's post-Covid recovery fund?
  8. EU turns from China to India on free trade

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us