- Europe's far-right, xenophobic and extremist parties
crossed a new threshold yesterday, winning more speaking time, money, and
political influence in the European Parliament than ever before. Claiming
the backing of 23 million Europeans, ultra-nationalists secured enough
MEPs to make a formal political grouping, underlining the growing challenge
posed by the far right across the continent. For the first time since the
Second World War a series of elections has swept nationalistic, far-right
parties into office in municipal, regional, national and European parliament
elections. The admission of Romania and Bulgaria in January of this year
brought in enough far-right MEPs to form a bloc.
- Mainstream politicians have been struggling for years
to contain the threat from hardline nationalists and extremists who have
entered coalitions or supported ruling governments in countries such as
Austria, Denmark, Poland and Slovakia.
- Amid formal protests and jeers in the Strasbourg Parliament,
20 MEPs yesterday signed up to the new formation called Identity, Tradition,
Sovereignty (ITS). As a formal group, they are entitled to up to ¤1m
in central funding. It is led by Bruno Gollnisch of France's National Front,
who is awaiting a court verdict on charges of Holocaust denial.
- Made up of ultra-nationalists the group includes one
Bulgarian parliamentarian, Dimitar Stoyanov, who yesterday attacked the
"Jewish establishment" and accused Roma parents of selling 12-year-olds
- Even the ringtone of Mr Stoyanov's phone points to his
hardline politics. It features a former Bulgarian national anthem which,
he says, "tells of the atrocities of the Turkish army in the second
Balkan war, how the rivers were flowing with blood and the widows weeping,
and urges people to fight for Bulgaria".
- A previous far-right grouping in the European Parliament
faltered in the 1980s and rival MEPs predict that ITS will have a limited
impact on the Strasbourg assembly.
- Martin Schulz, leader of the socialist group which is
the second-largest in the Parliament, appealed to other MEPs to unite to
prevent ITS from securing senior positions in Strasbourg. He said: "We
must not abandon this Parliament, which symbolises the integration of Europe,
to those who deny all European values."
- The new political group was established despite efforts
by socialist MEPs to block its formation. One British MEP, Ashley Mote,
has joined the group. A former Ukip member, Mr Mote was suspended from
that party in 2004 when he faced prosecution for housing benefit fraud
and has since sat as an independent.
- Prominent members of the far-right alliance include Jean-Marie
Le Pen, veteran member of the French National Front, who shocked Europe
by reaching the second stage of the last French presidential elections,
Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito Mussolini, Frank Vanhecke,
leader of Belgium's separatist Flemish nationalist party, Vlaams Belang,
and Andreas Mölzer, a former aide to the Austrian far-right leader,
- Under the Parliament's rules a formal grouping requires
20 MEPs from at least six countries. That requirement was reached only
after Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU this month. As MEPs converged
on Strasbourg, Mr Stoyanov, who at 23 is the Parliament's youngest member,
claimed the ITS had crossed a threshold of power. "We will be able
to table amendments," said Mr Stoyanov. "We will have longer
speaking time in the plenary sessions and, eventually, we will win chairman,
or deputy chairman, positions on committees." Mr Stoyanov, of Bulgaria's
Ataka party, denied being anti-Semitic but said he opposed the " Jewish
establishment" which used ordinary Jewish people "like pawns"
- In the parliamentary chamber Mr Gollnisch claimed that
the new group " will speak on behalf of 23 million Europeans who would
not be represented without us". He added: "We will be the Parliament's
conscience. We will be vigilant defenders of the peoples and nations of
Europe who want our continent and civilisation to be great."
- The sweep of extremism in expanded Europe / Romania
- Party: Partidul Romania Mare (Greater Romania)
- Leader: Corneliu Vadim Tudor
- No. of MEPs: 5
- Has five ITS members, all from racist, homophobic Greater
- party, a, nationalist organisation that voted against
joining the EU.
- Among other things, the party despises ethnic Hungarians,
- United Kingdom
- Party: N/A (Independent)
- No. of MEPs: 1
- British membership of ITS is limited to South East England's
- independent MEP Ashley Mote. Mr Mote first entered European
- with UKIP but was ejected in 2004 after being tried for
- Party: Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs)
- Leader: Heinz-Christian Strache
- No. of MEPs: One
- The Austrian Freedom Party, which Jorg Haider made a
- is still winning votes even after his departure. The
- stronger anti-immigration laws, stricter law enforcement
- funds for families.
- Party: Alternativa Sociale, Fiamme Tricolore
- Leaders: Alessandra Mussolini and Luca Romagnoli respectively
- No. of MEPs: 2
- MEPs Alessandra Mussolini, and Luca Romagnoli are both
- the Fascist party that ruled Italy for two decades. Mussolini,
- grand-daughter of Il Duce, is a former glamour model.
- mainstream support.
- A long-cherished ambition, and a step further than before
- Yesterday's developments are the culmination of a long-cherished
ambition by Europe's far-right parties to form a recognised bloc in the
European Parliament. They have had self-declared groups before, notably
when Jean-Marie Le Pen of France's National Front led an alliance called
the European Right in Strasbourg in 1984-89, followed by the Technical
Group of the European Right in 1989-94. On the ground and away from the
parliament, the far right has prospered in several countries since the
mid-Eighties. In Austria, Jörg Haider emerged in 1986 as leader of
the Freedom Party. The Swiss People's Party, led by Christoph Blocher,
became Switzerland's second-strongest political force in 1999. In Denmark,
the ultra-right Danish People's Party swept into parliament as the country's
third-largest party following the 2001 elections. In Italy, the xenophobic
Northern League entered a right-wing coalition in the same year. In Belgium,
far-right Flemish separatists have gained support throughout the decade,
and the Netherlands was convulsed by the rise of the populist anti-immigration
campaigner, Pim Fortuyn.