Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Eurosceptic group in turmoil as leader steps down

  • The leadership change will again highlight the Conservative Party's weak position in Brussels (Photo: European Parliament)

The Polish leader of the eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament has said he will resign, posing questions about its future.

Michal Kaminski made the announcement on Polish TV on Wednesday (26 January), saying: "I do not want to transplant the Polish-Polish war into the European Parliament because this is harmful for Poland."

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"I want this [the ECR leadership change] to happen in as calm a way as possible. I underline - and if I say this, I am speaking sincerely - that I do not want a Polish-Polish war, and I think we shouldn't want one in the European Parliament either," he told the TVN 24 news channel.

The "war" concerns Mr Kaminski's split from the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) in Poland. Late last year, he and two fellow Polish MEPs from the ECR group left PiS, saying it had become too extreme and created their own party, called 'Poland is the Most Important'.

The ECR's internecine conflict shows no signs of abating, however.

"If there's anybody who is extreme, it is Michal Kaminski. He is doing his best to realign himself but he is the one who made homophobic comments and was once closely connected to the far right in Poland," Jacek Kurski, a PiS deputy in the ECR told the Guardian, a British daily, in reference to the fact Mr Kaminski once used the pejorative word "queer" when talking about gay people on TV.

Two candidates for the ECR top post are British Conservative Party MEP Timothy Kirkhope and the head of the PiS delegation, Zbigniew Ziobro. The other big party in the ECR, the Czech Civic Democrats, might also make a bid.

A source in the ECR told Polish daily Rzeczpospolita that PiS has agreed to give the post to the Brits or the Czechs.

The ECR's Polish-Polish war again highlights that the British government is in league with MEPs who hold radical views and is part of an unstable group with little influence on decisions in Brussels.

If Poland is the Most Important leaves the ECR, the group will become even weaker and could lose its one meaningful position - the chairmanship of the internal market committee - in the legislature's mid-term reshuffle in six months' time.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

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