EU’s nationalist parties announce plans to join forces after May vote

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Italy’s Interior Minister, deputy PM and Federal Secretary of Italy’s Northern League (Lega Nord) right-wing regionalist political party, Matteo Salvini speaks during a meeting of European nationalists in Milan on Monday. — AFP
Italy’s Interior Minister, deputy PM and Federal Secretary of Italy’s Northern League (Lega Nord) right-wing regionalist political party, Matteo Salvini speaks during a meeting of European nationalists in Milan on Monday. — AFP

MILAN — Nationalist, anti-immigration parties plan to join forces following next month’s EU parliamentary election, looking to create a new bloc to shake up the European Union, officials from four groups said on Monday.

“We want to reform the European Union and the European parliament, without destroying them. We want to bring radical change,” said Joerg Meuthen, the chairman of the euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

Meuthen told reporters that the new group within the EU parliament would be called the European Alliance for People and Nations and would initially involve at least 10 parties.

Monday’s event was organized by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who heads the far-right League. Besides the AfD, the conservative Finns Party and the rightist Danish People’s Party, also pledged to support the initiative.

Europe’s sovereignist parties share the broad ideological goals of curbing the EU’s perceived liberal course and returning power to the member states’ capitals. But they often have very different economic and social policy ideas, making it often hard to create a coherent group within the EU parliament.

European populists including Salvini’s anti-immigrant League are hoping for a so-called “sovereignist” grouping of at least 70-80 MEPs in the 751-member European Parliament after the May 26 election.

Most of Europe’s right-wing nationalists are currently divided into three blocs and a tangled web of alliances in the European Parliament, which they would like to overhaul if not destroy.

They are the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group — which includes the League and RN as well as Austria’s Freedom Party and the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom — the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD).

The dream of Salvini — and of Steve Bannon, US President Donald Trump’s former strategist — has been to unite the disparate forces and form an “international of nationalists”.

Salvini held talks with Le Pen in Paris on Friday and said she would come to a bigger meeting in Milan in May, which, according to Salvini “at least 15-20 countries” will attend.

Despite their shared dislike for immigration, multiculturalism, the left and the EU, Europe’s populists remain divided on other key issues.

The AfD and their Scandinavian allies tend to believe in the market economy, while the French RN favors a more protectionist approach.

While Italy’s League, Poland’s PiS and Hungary’s Fidesz highlight Europe’s Christian cultural roots, the RN has shied away from taking a similar stance in a country where the majority is in favor of secularism.

Salvini and Le Pen have both praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, a view not shared by PiS in Poland or the Finns Party. — Agencies


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