Thursday

21st Mar 2019

Far-right 'lite' to push for EU referendum on Turkish accession

  • Vienna: Far-right lite strategising took place in the Austrian capital for a second year running (Photo: Wikipedia/Thomas Binderhofer)

Europe's far-right 'lite' parties are to push for a pan-European referendum on Turkish accession to the bloc under the EU's new rules.

Six extreme right parties meeting in Vienna on Saturday (23 october) - Austria's Freedom Party (FPO), Belgium's Flemish separatists of the Vlaams Belang, the Danish People's Party, Italy's anti-immigrant Northern League, the Slovak National Party and the Sweden Democrats - are about to launch their own citizens' campaign hot on the heels of the success of the left-wing online pressure group Avaaz, which earlier this month collected a million names demanding a ban on genetically modified organisms across the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Under Lisbon Treaty rules, which entered into life in January this year, the European Citizens' Initiative forces the European Commission to consider proposing legislation if a million EU voters sign a petition.

The Vienna conference, entitled "EU after the Lisbon Treaty" also discussed Islam in Europe and immigration, two hobby-horses of the parties.

The meeting follows a similar gathering in Vienna last year in advance of a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, where most of the same clutch of parties strategised how to campaign against passage of the treaty.

While the traditional far right is explicitly anti-EU, and the so-called far-right 'lite' parties are certainly eurosceptic, the parties in Vienna on Saturday said they opposed Turkish accession in order to defend the Union.

"That would be the end of the European Union," said FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache, "and the beginning of a Eurasian-African Union that would completely go against our European peace project and must therefore not be allowed."

The meeting represents a further shift in the realignment on the far right.

Many of the attendees have strived to strip themselves of any association with the fascist nostalgia of the hardcore far right, focussing on Islam and immigration and embracing Israel, and met with considerable success in recent years.

Most recently, the nationalist Sweden Democrats, which in 2001 cleansed itself of its hardcore element (which would later establish themselves as the National Democrats) in September's 2010 general election crossed for the first time the four percent threshold necessary for a parliamentary representation, polling 5.7 percent and winning 20 seats.

The British National Party, Hungary's paramilitary-linked Jobbik and Bulgaria's Ataka were all explicitly not invited to Vienna by the Freedom Party organisers, who described such parties as being on the extreme right.

At last year's Vienna conference, organised by the FPO's education division, Ataka and France's Front National had been invited.

Saturday's Vienna congress meeting will also form part of the FPO's attempts to court the European Freedom and Democracy (EFD) grouping in the European Parliament led by Britain's non-far-right UK Independence Party.

The FPO was frozen out of the eurosceptic grouping in the chamber by Ukip in the horse-trading among different parties in the wake of last year's European Parliament elections. But the EFD nevertheless has a number of member parties whose ideology is considered hard right by most monitors of the scene. While comfortable with these other parties, Ukip for its part wants nothing to do with the FPO.

However, the Northern League, the Danish People's Party and Slovakia's SNS, who sit with Ukip in the EFD, were all at the FPO event and are on friendlier terms with the Austrian party.

According to sources close to the parliamentary grouping, Ukip "has tried to keep its distance as the FPO are simply too extreme."

"There is something of a realignment going on, although it's not a fixed situation. It's in flux. If these people can manage to make the changes to their parties or convince people that they have nothing to do with the genuine far right, that people understand they are not extreme, they have a real chance."

"But it's also about the money. A larger grouping in the European Parliament brings in more money, and it's a lonely place to be sitting on your own without a group," said the source.

The FPO currently sits in Brussels unattached to any parliamentary grouping.

"There has been an overture from the FPO to join for quite some months now. But I don't think it's going to happen," the contact said.

According to the European Parliament, adding another couple of members in general would not result in a great deal more money, but adding members that use another language would produce a "step-change" in their funding. The group has no german-speaking MEPs.

It has yet to be decided whether the EFD will participate as a group in the anti-Turkey petition drive, but the grouping is unanimous in opposing the country's accession the bloc, EFD spokesman Hermann Kelly told EUobserver.

"All members of the EFD are extremely critical of Turkish accession. Turkey is too big, too poor and too different," he said.

"The Turkish state is guilty of the abuse of basic human rights, and has invaded and continues to occupy the Republic of Cyprus," he added. He rejected however that such a perspective was unique to the far right.

"The EFD is a group of democractic parties and in no way accepts the sobriquet 'right-wing'."

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

EPP hits threshold to trigger Orban expulsion probe

At least seven national parties from Europe's biggest political alliance, the centre-right European People's Party, want the group's 'enfant terrible', Hungary's nationalist and authoritarian Fidesz kicked out - following Budapest's latest anti-EU campaign.

News in Brief

  1. EPP proposes suspension for Orban's Fidesz
  2. May asks for Brexit extension until 30 June
  3. Juncker: Brexit decision unlikely this week
  4. North Macedonia EU-membership talks set for June
  5. EU ups benefits rights for mobile workers
  6. Chinese leader visits Italy, France as Rome joins 'Silk Road'
  7. EU agrees to sanction political parties breaching data rules
  8. EPP votes Wednesday on future of Orban's party

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. May tosses Brexit spanner into EU machinery
  2. Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban
  3. A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension
  4. US glyphosate verdict gives ammunition to EU activists
  5. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  6. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance
  7. EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech
  8. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us