National Front renews hunt for European funding

[Blandine Le Cain/Flickr]

Marine Le Pen wants to form a pan-European political party. [Blandine Le Cain/Flickr]

After failing to form a group in the European Parliament, Marine Le Pen’s National Front will seek EU funding by forming a new European political party. EURACTIV France reports.

The failure of the European Parliament’s extreme-right parties to form a political group after the elections in May 2014 has deprived them of numerous advantages, including European funding.

But the French National Front has not dropped the chase, and has decided to join forces with its allies in Brussels to launch a pan-European political party to cash in on European money.

A new anti-European party

“The creation of a European political party christened the Movement of Nations and Freedoms for Europe (MENL) will bring together Marine Le Pen’s allies in the European Parliament,” announced the leader of the National Front delegation in the European Parliament, Aymeric Chauprade, on 3 October.

The French MEP explained that this party would be launched “in anticipation of creating a political group in the European Parliament”.

>> Read: Dutch, French far-right fail to form European Parliament group

The far-right allied parties include the Italian Northern League, the Austrian FPÖ and the Belgian Vlaams Belang, who had already tried to form a parliamentary group with the French National Front (NF) following the May 2014 European elections.

The FPÖ and the Vlaams Belang were already members of the European Alliance for Freedom, another political party partly, but it is clear that the NF would prefer to take the helm.

“We no longer want to be part of the European Alliance for Freedom because we want to launch a new structure,” Aymeric Chauprade said.

The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), an ally of the NF, declined Marine Le Pen’s offer to join the new party, as they categorically refuse to participate in any transnational structure.

>> Read: Far-right parties join Tories in rejecting common EU candidate

Mr Chauprade appeared disappointed, saying that “the PVV has chosen to deprive itself of the benefits of European funding for the fight against the European Institutions in Brussels, and will not join the MENL. However, our friends in the PVV will actively participate in our efforts to create a political group in the European Parliament”.

Failure to form a group

Despite assembling 38 members, the National Front and its allies – Geert Wilders’ Dutch PVV, the FPÖ, the Northern League and the Vlaams Belang – were forced to abandon their attempts to form a group in the wake of the May elections after failing to reach the quota of 7 different nationalities set by the European Parliament.

Membership of a group brings significant financial benefits, and according to the think-tank Open Europe, the successful formation of an extreme-right parliamentary group would have granted the parties a further 22 million euros in EU funding over the 5 year term. The European Alliance for Freedom and its foundation received almost €600,000 of funding from the Parliament in 2012.

>> Read: After election success, far right parties line up for EU money in Parliament

“Our request to form the party and the associated think tank will not be confirmed by the services of the European Parliament before January 2015, as the process is long and complex. But we hope to obtain funding worth several millions of euro over the course of the legislative term,” Chauprade explained.

Respect for “European values”?

There is nothing to stop anti-European parties like the NF and its allies from obtaining EU funding by forming a political party.

The only safeguard limiting access to Parliament funding is a condition specified in article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty, which stipulates that new political parties must “respect European values”. The article specifies that the objective of the European Union is to promote peace, European values and the well-being of its people.

>> Read: Parliament wants tougher funding rules for EU political parties

The European political parties coordinate the national parties of member states. They are not the same as the European Parliament's political "groups", though they are often closely linked.

According to the European treaties, "the European political parties are important for integration within the Union. They contribute to the formation of a European conscience and the expression of the political will of the European people".

A 2003 regulation lays out the criteria that need to be fulfilled in order for a party to obtain funding. These conditions were demanded in a report by the European Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Commission.

There are currently 13 official European parties. Most of them also fund foundations that act as party think-tanks.

National Front

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