James Crisp, Telegraph, June 13, 2019
Marine Le Pen launched a new alliance of far right parties in the European Parliament on Thursday and vowed the group of eurosceptic MEPs would have a “huge impact” on Brussels.
The leader of France’s National Rally claimed that the parties in the group had “changed the political chessboard of the European Union” by securing the votes of millions in May’s European elections.
Calling itself the Identity and Democracy group, the new alliance is dominated by MEPs from Italian Deputy Prime Minister
It brings together Le Pen’s party, Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) and nationalists from Austria, Finland, Belgium and Denmark, among others, and will qualify for extra EU funding and speaking time in Brussels and Strasbourg.
The new alliance will hold 73 of 751 seats and is the fifth-largest grouping in the newly elected parliament, just behind the Greens. Mr Salvini had boasted the group, which has united around eurosceptism and curbing immigration and the spread of Islam, would be the third largest.
“The EU still feels that nothing has happened and they think it can be business as usual,” said Ms Le Pen at a Brussels press conference.
“We are not doing this to make friends. We are here to be a thorn in the flesh of the establishment,” said Jorg Meuthen, leader of the Afd.
“No to more competencies to the EU, no to further harmonisation, no to the undermining of the nation state,” he said.
National parties of similar politics form themselves into pan-EU blocs in the European Parliament of at least 25 MEPs from seven different countries.
Parties committed to strengthening the EU won two-thirds of the seats in last month’s Europe-wide election.
With other eurosceptic parties, such as Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, expected to join or form other political groups, the far right alliance lacks the numbers to block EU legislation as it passes through the parliament.
Mr Farage has ruled out joining Identity and Democracy but its MEPs made it clear his 29 Brexit Party MEPs would be welcome to join them.
“There are parties in the European Parliament that should be here today but which have so far decided otherwise,” said Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho in Brussels, “I don’t want to criticise those parties but I want to remind them the door remains open.”
Mr Salvini’s foreign affairs advisor Marco Zanni, whose League party is one of the three biggest in the Parliament, said they were courting other parties like Spain’s Vox to join.
“The message to all of those parties who have a radically different view of Europe, if we can work together … that would benefit all of us,” Mr Zanni said
Identity and Democracy replaces the Europe of Nations and Freedom group, which held 36 seats in the last EU legislature.