New conservative group to rock next Parliament

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Establishing a new conservative, anti-Lisbon and anti-federalist group in the European Parliament will not weaken the European People's Party, Geoffrey Van Orden, a leading Conservative MEP told EurActiv in a telephone interview.

Van Orden, who in his personal website indicates that he acted as the British Conservative leader David Cameron's "point-man" in Brussels for the new political project, said he had accompanied Cameron on his visits to Prague and Warsaw on 30-31 May, when the alliance was sealed. He also indicated that he was expecting to play an important role in the new political alliance. 

Some 60 MEPs from the European Parliament's EPP-ED group could join the new formation following Sunday's EU elections, experts said. Asked if the move would weaken the EPP-ED, Van Orden insisted that the new conservative group would still be in line with the European People's Party on many issues, while disagreeing on "fundamental areas", such as the Lisbon Treaty. 

European leaders are waiting to learn the outcome of the elections before appointing the next Commission president. Recent polls gave EPP-ED 249 seats, compared with 209 for the Socialist group. Asked if the move to secede from the EPP-ED group would give the European left the chance to push for an alternative candidate to the EPP's José Manuel Barroso, Van Orden said he still believed the centre-right would continue to be the largest group in the European Parliament. 

Asked if he expected to experience arm-twisting to back down from the project, Van Orden said the British Conservatives had already been subjected to such political pressure for the last two years. 

"And I'm sure that would go on. We had comments from surprising quarters, ranging from the vice-chairman of the Chinese Communist party to a neighbouring foreign secretary. We've clearly got a lot of people worried," he said. 

Van Orden explained that the Socialists were in fact very worried by the emergence of a new centre-right voice in the European Parliament, a voice that this time would oppose the federalist ambitions of the European Union. 

Van Orden did not rule out a possible partnership with Declan Ganley's anti-Lisbon Treaty political project Libertas. "Libertas, like us, opposes the Treaty of Lisbon. Let us see if anyone gets elected under the Libertas banner, and we will review the situation after 7 June," he said. 

To read the interview in full, please click here
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