Thursday 18 January 2018

Bluster and rhetoric from left and right but pro-EU parties are still dominant

Comment

Far-right politician Geert Wilders of the anti-immigration Dutch Freedom (PVV) Party
Far-right politician Geert Wilders of the anti-immigration Dutch Freedom (PVV) Party

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson

Marine Le Pen and other Eurosceptic leaders have said they want to bring down the EU from the inside. So is the bloc's implosion just a matter of time?

Hardly. Despite the blustering rhetoric from Ms Le Pen and UKIP leader Nigel Farage, pro-European forces still dominate the 751-seat parliament.

These parties are united in their abhorrence of the extreme right, so have extra incentive to form alliances to block the influence of the fringe parties.

Who exactly are these fringe parties that have made the gains?

They cover a wide political spectrum from far left to far right. Currently there are seven recognised political groups in parliament: the four mainstream pro-European parties, a hard-left grouping and two Eurosceptic alliances. Britain's UKIP and the far-right Danish People's Party sit with one of the anti-EU groups. Parties on the far left, such as Syriza in Greece, are part of the hard-left group, where Sinn Fein's three new MEPs will also sit.

There are many parties that have MEPs for the first time. These include those with neo-Nazi traits, such as Greece's Golden Dawn and the German radical National Democratic Party. On the far left, Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement will have its first seats. Spain also saw a proliferation of smaller parties. Finally you have the more established populist parties, such as the Front National and Geert Wilders' Freedom Party in the Netherlands. They sat as independents in the last parliament, and a big question is what their plans are now.

Are all these far-right parties going to join together into a supergroup?

That's the plan of Ms Le Pen and Mr Wilders, who want to form a new official political group in the parliament, which means more funds and more influence. They need at least 25 MEPs from seven member states. So far the Austrian Freedom Party, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, the Swedish Democrats and Italy's Northern League have suggested they will join them. That means they only need to convince one more party. The hard right is, however, beset with divisions.

Ms Le Pen and Mr Wilders want nothing to do with radical extremists such as Golden Dawn or Jobbik in Hungary. However, some of the anti-immigration rhetoric coming from the French and Dutch far right is too toxic for other Eurosceptic parties.

What happens next? All eyes are on tonight's meeting of the 28 heads of state and the first discussion on the priorities for the EU over the next five years will be held under the shadow of the far-right gains.

Today also marks the start of what are expected to be protracted negotiations between the new European Parliament and the national leaders over who should be the next president of the European Commission – the most powerful role in the EU.

The parliament wants the president to come from one of the main political groups, but many national leaders would rather pick their own politically neutral candidate, and a power struggle seems inevitable. (© Independent News Service )

Independent News Service

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