Mixed reaction to EU populist bloc launch

Mixed reaction to EU populist bloc launch

European nationalist parties have announced a populist alliance in the hope of breaking open the balance of power in the European Parliament.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini of the anti-migrant Lega unveiled the pact in Milan alongside Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Finns Party and Danish People’s Party.

With major players currently missing, like Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally and Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s Fidesz, it is unclear whether Salvini will achieve a breakthrough.

But AfD chairman Jörg Meuthen predicted at least 10 parties would take part.

“We want to reform the European Union and the European Parliament, without destroying them,” he said. “We want to bring radical change.”

The European elections, being held May 23-26, have already attracted far more media attention than normal, partly because of the possible inclusion of Britain, despite the ongoing Brexit crisis.

Estonian MEP Indrek Tarand of the European Green Party called Salvini’s launch a “failure”, saying divisions among nationalist parties would prevent collaboration.

“I don’t feel a threat because in a democracy people have a right to be stupid and vote for all sorts of extremist approaches,” Tarand said.

Belgian MEP Gerolf Annemans in the populist Europe of Nations and Freedom party replied: “The people that vote for us are not stupid.

“Groups in the European Parliament are not blocs, they have different views and that is our message also to the European Union — permit different views,” Annemans added.

The parties plan to form the bloc to challenge the power of centrist parties.

Under European Parliament rules, a group needs at least 25 MEPs from a minimum of seven EU countries.

Salvini said: “We are not interested in local controversies.”

Speaking under a banner saying “a common sense Europe! People rise up”, Salvini said the alliance hoped to become the largest group in the parliament. It would strive to preserve European borders, history and culture, the Italian populist added.

Currently, nationalist and Eurosceptic groups are among the smallest in the parliament.

But since the 2014 election, populist parties have risen across Europe and centrist voters are being called on to back pro-EU parties.

Far-right website Breitbart quoted the Danish People’s Party’s lead candidate for the European Parliament Peter Kofod saying: “We have been thinking a lot about forming a group that more closely unites some of the common interests of national conservative parties.

“The intention is that after the election, we will start negotiations with a view to forming a new, large group of parties that are similar to us.

“We want to fight the current EU federalism. EU co-operation can move two ways: there is [French President Emmanuel] Macron’s path that goes towards a federal superstate with social union, common defence etc. And then there is the Europe of nations that is about securing the influence and interests of the nation states,” Kofod reportedly added.



If it takes part in the European elections, the UK will be a focal point of attention. Picture credit: Eurasia Times 

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