Tories lose Finn, Greens gain Swedish pirate

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The new anti-federalist group in the European Parliament led by the British Conservatives has suffered a setback after one of their MEPs reversed his decision to join its ranks. Meanwhile, the celebrated Swedish Pirate Party MEP has decided to join the Greens instead of the Liberals.

Finnish MEP Hannu Takkula was earlier this week named as one of the members of the new European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in Parliament (EURACTIV 23/06/09). 

Takkula was one of the ECR’s all-important members, as he represented one of the group’s six single “national delegations” required to meet the Parliament’s threshold for forming a political group (at least 25 MEPs from a minimum of seven countries). 

But Takkula yesterday performed a startling about-turn, announcing that he will in fact remain a member of the Liberal ALDE group in the Parliament. 

“My aim was to join the new group,” Takkula told EURACTIV, “but my party leaders made the decision that we [the Suomen Keskusta party] would continue with ALDE. I was the only one who wanted to go to the ECR, so I had to decide what I wanted to do. I accepted that I have to be loyal to my party”. 

The Finnish MEP conceded that he would have been better suited to the ECR “on some issues”, because he shares the group’s anti-federalist stance, but he said he was happy to continue with the Liberals. “They promised me I could keep my values and vote according to my Finnish party line,” he explained. 

Takkula does not believe, as some commentators have argued, that the ECR will be “fragile” due to its heavy reliance on these single-MEP ‘national delegations’. On the contrary, he believes these little groups will be “quite dedicated” to ECR unity, because they have “a bigger chance of having good positions and good committees” due to their disproportionate importance to the group. 

Takkula said he was “very sure” the ECR would reward the remaining five ‘national delegation’ MEPs with plum positions. 

Takkula believes the ECR will be “an active force” in the new Parliament, despite one Finnish EPP source’s argument that, on the contrary, “the beginning of the new group seems very shaky”. 

Swedish pirate goes Green 

Meanwhile, though ALDE retained Hannu Takkula, they lost out to the European Greens in their bid to secure the membership of Swedish Pirate Party MEP Christian Engström. The Pirate Party was one of the great success stories of the European elections, as they came from nowhere to win one of Sweden’s seats (EURACTIV 22/04/09). 

Engström yesterday said that while he was courted by both the ALDE and the left-leaning GUE/NGL, the Greens won his service because they “had gone furthest in their work relating to ‘the politics of information'”. 

Greens Co-Presidents Rebecca Harms and Daniel Cohn-Bendit welcomed the new member, saying they were “delighted to welcome the Swedish Pirate Party, which shares our principles and values in defending internet users’ rights”. 

“Christian Engström will have an independent status within our group and he has indicated he will support the Greens/EFA position in areas where the Pirate Party has no agenda,” the Greens said in a statement. 

The period between the end of the European elections and the first sitting of the new European Parliament is traditionally a time of frenetic horse-trading and deal-making, as parliamentary groups seek to attract new members and gain the best committee positions.

This week, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, spearheaded by the British Conservatives, announced they had successfully surpassed the threshold required to form a group (25 MEPs from a minimum of seven EU countries). 

However, while the ECR's ranks will be dominated by MEPs from the Tories (26 MEPs) and the Polish Law and Justice party (PiS: 15 MEPs), six of the group's nine national delegations consist of a single MEP, thus leaving the new group open to accusations of being a "fragile coalition" (EURACTIV 23/06/09).

Meanwhile, the well-publicised success of the Swedish Pirate Party has led a number of parliament groups to court its newly-elected MEP, Christian Engström.

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