European conservatives reach out to sovereignists

Jean-Frédéric Poisson (lFrench Christian Democratic Party), Ryszard Legutko (co-chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists group) and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (leader of Debout la France) at the meeting "Rencontres europeénnes pour un plan B", 28 May [Credit: Lucie Lebens Debout la france]

Ahead of the European elections, the conservative group of the European Parliament is getting closer to French sovereignist parties such as Debout la France to fill the gap left by British MEPs. EURACTIV.fr reports.

A year from the all-important European elections, new alliances are being formed among the Eurosceptics of the Parliament.

The co-chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), Ryszard Legutko, took part in a joint work meeting with several French right-wing parties on 28 May.

Supported by “Les Amoureux de la France”, a political platform launched by the parties Debout la France and the French Christian Democratic Party, “European meeting for a plan B” aims to form an alternative common program ahead of the European elections.

During the first meeting, the right-wing parties and the ECR group once again criticised the functioning of the European Union. “The European Commission is usurping competencies that have not been given to it,” stated Legutko, while the chair of the Christian Democrat Party, Jean-Frédéric Poisson, spoke of “institutional brutality” in Brussels.

Though more meetings are organised, the two sides deny any official alliance for the 2019 European elections, for now.

According to Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Debout la France and its partners of “Amoureux de la France” want to “first of all create a political programme”, before “trying to sway” electors. The French MP declined to comment on whether his party Debout la France would participate in the European elections.

Nevertheless, during the conference Dupont-Aignan highlighted the rise of Eurosceptic parties in several European countries and stated that next year’s elections could be “an opportunity to have a European Parliament with a Eurosceptic majority”.

Seeking answers to euroscepticism

The prospect of Eurosceptic parties performing strongly in European and national elections has exorcised EU officials and pro-Europeans for the last 15 years. Britain’s impending departure from the bloc, coupled with the fact that the slow countdown to the next European elections in May 2019 is now underway, is focusing minds on how to avoid a repeat.

To date, Dupont-Aignan had shown more affinity with the British MEP Nigel Farage of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the European Parliament, also affiliated to the EFDD is the French party The Patriots, created by Marine Le Pen’s ex-right-hand man Florian Phillippot.

However, creating an alliance with the European conservatives would allow Dupont-Aignan to create the first Eurosceptic force in the EP if his party were to participate in the elections.

For the ECR, such cooperation is also crucial as it is looking for new allies to compensate for the loss of its British MEPs after Brexit in March 2019. British MEPs account for 19 out of the groups 71 MEPS in total. Following the conference, Legutko confirmed he had spoken to parties in Austria, Italy, Slovakia, and Sweden to increase support for his group.

Europe based on cooperation

The programme which will come out of these meetings, and which should be finished in September, should “offer a political alternative”, according to Dupont-Aignan. The principle of “à la carte cooperation” is at the heart of the programme.

According to the principle, each member state will be able to take part in a specific project of its choice. The areas concerned are yet to be defined but could touch on “economic, social and territorial cohesion, consumer protection, humanitarian aid” and “foreign policy”, according to a list found in the Alternative treaty for a Europe of nations.

Le Pen seeks to rally far-right allies for European elections

France’s Marine Le Pen led a rally of Europe’s far-right in the southern French city of Nice on Tuesday (1 May), to celebrate recent gains on the continent and devise a battle plan for next year’s European elections.

Drawn up by the French party Debout la France, the document will be used as a basis to reflect on the future common programme. Other than the cooperation principle, the text puts forward that decisions be taken unanimously, but with a right to veto for each member state.

The European Parliament will also be transformed into a “European Assembly” made of “representatives of member states” elected by each national parliament.

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