The ECR group in the European Parliament scoops up another seven seats, as news surfaced on Thursday that the German AfD party has been confirmed as a new member.
“This is above all a success for our voters, who will be represented with a strong voice in Europe as a consequence of this decision,” said AfD’s party leader, Bernd Lucke.
“With the ECR, we have found a colleague that has the same values and goals as us,” Hans-Olaf Henkel, lead candidate for the AfD in the EU elections, reacted.
The ECR welcomed the Germans into their ranks, in a message posted on Twitter this morning.
Welcome to the @AfD_Bund party which has joined the ECR Group this morning.
— ECR Group (@ecrgroup) June 12, 2014
The AfD was founded only 16 months ago and secured the support of a number of academic and business figureheads since it was created. In recent months, it campaigned on leaving the Euro, returning to the Deutsche Mark and calling for “less Europe”.
The AfD won a total of seven seats in the EU elections on 25 May. These additional seats now bring the ECR Group to a total of 62, which at this point puts them ahead of the liberals and as third force in the EU Parliament.
Last week, the ECR gained 10 seats by getting the Eurosceptic Danish People’s Party, the far-right populists of The Finns and other smaller parties to join the group. The surge means the conservative faction could play a role of ‘kingmaker’ in future EU Parliament votes. [Read more]
What will Cameron tell Merkel?
The ECR group is dominated by British prime minister David Cameron’s Conservative party, which makes up around a quarter of the faction’s seats in the EU Parliament.
But a decision on a new member in the family is taken by a simple majority vote, which was held this morning. AfD’s Henkel applauded the decision, saying it went against “massive pressure coming from the party headquarters in London”.
The decision to allow the German Eurosceptics in the group is likely to put the British-German relationship even more under strain. Cameron and Merkel are currently in a diplomatic quarrel over who should take the lead of the next EU executive. [Read more]
The London-based think tank Open Europe wrote on Wednesday (11 June) that “it’s all about Angela Merkel. She doesn’t deal with AfD. […] Merkel wasn’t happy when Cameron left the EPP-ED group to form the ECR in 2009. Now, joining forces with her arch-enemy will be like chucking a tank of fuel onto the fire.”
In an earlier analysis, EurActiv Germany reported that the AfD’s coalition partner of choice for the AfD would be the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the British Conservatives. “They have a lot of overlap with us because they are also against the European central state. They are liberal and also values-oriented,” Henkel then explained.
The European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) is a 'euro-critical' group in the European Parliament, calling for EU reform and right-wing economic policy priorities. It is closely linked to the UK Conservative Party's European delegation.
The UK Conservatives lost a number of seats in the EU elections on 22 May. In the aftermath of the elections, the group is attempting to attract a number of new member parties, boosting their seat number in the EU parliament.
The ECR is situated to the right of the European People's Party (EPP), which is the largest European political family. ECR also competes for political power with the eurosceptic EFD group, on their right in the EP.
>> All news on the new MEPs on our New Parliament page
- End of June: end date to form parliamentary groups
- 1-3 July: First plenary session of the newly constituted European Parliament