Greens take in first 5 Star defector

Marco Affronte [European Parliament]

The European Parliament’s Green group today (11 January) formally accepted its first defector from the 5 Star Movement, EFE learned. MEP Marco Affronte left the Eurosceptic EFDD group following his party’s rejection by liberal ALDE MEPs this week. EURACTIV Spain reports.

Affronte, a scientist by profession, is a member of the Parliament’s petitions, fisheries, and environment, public health and food safety committees.

The defection, which sources say will “not be the only one” from the 5 Star Movement (M5S), happened in the same week that the Europhile, centrist ALDE group rejected a membership bid from the Italian populist party.

Five Star MEPs have sat with Nigel Farage’s Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group since the 2014 elections.

ALDE rebuffs Italy's 5 Star bid to join parliamentary group

The Liberals in the European Parliament have turned down a request from the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement to join their group, putting Italy’s second-largest party in an awkward position as it had already left its former partners.

Although some factions of M5S have performed something of a pro-European U-turn in recent years, the party’s Eurosceptic, anti-euro roots made it equally unacceptable to both the ALDE and Green groups.

Both the Green and ALDE groups explained that they would be willing to accept individual members from Beppe Grillo’s party.

No common ground

In a brief press release, ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt justified his group’s decision to shut out the 17 Five Star MEPs, saying “There are not enough guarantees to push forward a common agenda to reform Europe.”

“There is insufficient common ground to proceed with the request of the 5 Star Movement to join the ALDE Group,” he added.

Although the marriage of convenience did not come about, Verhofstadt said that his group would continue to “work closely” with M5S.

If the merger had gone ahead, ALDE would have leap-frogged the conservative ECR group to become the European Parliament’s third-strongest political force. But as things stand, they remain in fourth position.

With the addition of Affronte, the Greens now have 51 members.