RPT: REVIEW - EU Parliament Euroskeptics Team Up To Form Populist Alliance

(@FahadShabbir)

RPT: REVIEW - EU Parliament Euroskeptics Team Up to Form Populist Alliance

BRUSSELS (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 14th June, 2019) Euroskeptic parties teamed up on Thursday to create what is expected to become the fourth largest party in the European Parliament, called Identity and Democracy (ID).

The "birth" of the new populist party was announced by Marine Le Pen of France's National Rally (NR) and Matteo Salvini of Italy's ruling League (Lega), whose foreign affairs adviser Marco Zanni will be the ID president.

Other parties in the alliance are Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Freedom Party of Austria (FPOe), Belgium's Flemish Interest (VB), the Czech Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), the Finns Party (PS), Estonia's Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and the Danish People's Party (DF).

The group is currently the fifth largest, holding 73 of the 751 seats, but it expects to get a few more mandates after Brexit. It could also be beefed up by Spain's VOX, which holds three seats and is yet to make a choice. Then there is the Fidesz party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, which has 12 seats and is ill at ease in the Christian Democratic group EPP.

The newly formed alliance will replace the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), although Le Pen stressed that ID was no rebranding stunt but an entirely new group that includes members who are also in their countries' governments and have matured and acquired new experience.

Speaking at a briefing on the occasion of ID's launch, Marine Le Pen stated clearly that the alliance would make the populist voice heard and predicted a wider alliance yet to come with European Parliament members who have similar ideas on Europe a force of some 200 lawmakers.

"A fundamental aspect of this new term in parliament will be a revolution in the political checkerboard... We will recompose the political order in parliament. This is the end of our splendid isolation, we who defend the right of peoples to self-determination," she announced.

She hit back at the mainstream EU political forces, who she claimed were in denial and thought they could continue "as if nothing happened."

"They should look again at the results of the vote," she added.

Central-left and central-right parties have lost votes in May's election to the far-right, the green and liberals. In France, National Rally beat President Emmanuel Macron's centrist LREM. In Germany, AfD came fourth while the Greens unseated the Socialists, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, causing a crisis in the government.

The ID's president, Zanni, said the bloc would strive to create a "Europe of sovereign states working together." He promised that the ID would take a hard line on security and migration from outside Europe and bring back national fiscal powers from Brussels.

"Economic and fiscal policies must remain in the hands of the member states, which only delegate what they see fit for delegation. No further integration of the EU," he stressed.

Joerg Meuthen, the co-chair and lead candidate for AfD, said the bloc has been working on its program ever since Salvini launched the campaign to unite euroskeptics in Milan in April.

He echoed Marine Le Pen in that ID was not an ENF clone but an entirely new group with much more clout in national capitals.

"We want a Europe of subsidiarity, where the sovereign member states have the decision. We say yes to competition, but we want to protect Europeans against the onslaught from globalists... We will be the thorn in the flank of the European elites," he vowed.

Jussi Halla-Aho of the Finns Party, which came fourth in the race for the European Parliament in Finland scoring one seat, spoke for the smaller parties also present in the new political group. He said populists did well in the 2014 election but failed to capitalize on their victory because of the lack of unity.

"We were scattered in four different political groups in the European parliament. It made us weak. The results are even better now... We defined our robust core values. We are pro-European, not anti. The EU is not Europe that we want," he declared.

Those present at the ID unveiling were inevitably quizzed about Europe's relations with Russia, sanctions and Russia's retaliatory ban on some EU food imports.

Meuthen was unequivocal about the need to end sanctions on both sides, stressing that tit-for-tat measures were hurting European agricultural business while achieving nothing.

"There is strictly no sense in prolonging the sanctions against Russia... The Russian policy won't change... The present situation could last for decades. It would be much better to act in a pragmatic way, lift the sanctions and develop a good cooperation with Russia," he argued.

Speaking to Sputnik, Meuthen added that ID founding members had discussed the relations with Russia "and I have carefully said what we all agree upon, about the sanctions." He stressed that some allies said they should act more decisively to stop the present "Russia-bashing" in the EU politics.

Jussi Halla-Aho told Sputnik that Finland could mediate between Moscow and Brussels but noted that the Crimean issue should be viewed from the perspective of the international law. Crimea split from Ukraine in 2014 after a referendum found that a vast majority of its population wanted to rejoin Russia.

"It is true that Finland has a special relation with Russia and we could play a role of go-between if need be. I have the greatest respect for our Russian friends but we must respect the rules of international law. It is in that framework that the Crimea issue should be solved," he said.

Marine Le Pen at one point wondered whether by asking about such heated topics as Russia journalists at the briefing were already trying to drive a wedge between the core parties.

"We know we are different nations and on different subjects have different opinions and feelings but on big subjects we have a common vision that we will present and defend in the next five years. We, the ID group, are the most coherent of all groups in the European parliament!" she pronounced.

The elections to the European Parliament were held across the bloc from May 23 to may 26. The combined voter turnout was almost 51 percent, the highest since 1994.

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