A former French National Front MEP has joined Nigel Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament, which now has enough support to re-form.
Joelle Bergeron, 64, left the French far right party two days after this year’s elections. The party, led by Marine Le Pen, asked her to leave her seat in favour of another candidate. The widowed auctioneer joins the new Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, which was formed tonight (18 June), as an independent.
The Eurosceptic group, which qualifies for EU funding and influential committee seats, now has 48 MEPs. As things stand at the time of writing, it is the smallest group in the Parliament.
Bergeron’s arrival and those of three other national delegations, including the Sweden Democrats, which was founded by a former member of the Waffen SS, meant the Eurosceptic EFD had the representatives from seven member states it needed to reform. Under EU rules, a group can be formed with at least 25 MEPs from seven different EU countries.
An EFD press release said: “Although elected on a Front National list at the last European elections she has admitted that she had joined the party with great hopes but realised that their philosophy was very different […] Joelle Bergeron has joined the group as an independent and declares herself an Anglophile, with the desire for democratic self-determination and a respect among different nations.”
Two MEPs from the Sweden Democrats, who want Sweden to leave the EU; Petr Mach, who wrote a book called How to Leave the EU, from the Czech Free Citizens Party; and Iveta Grigule of the Latvian Saeima, which wants a veto on EU agricultural policy, were also announced as new members. Sweden Democrat MEPs Kristina Winberg and Peter Lundgren have written to Farage, distancing themselves from their party’s white supremacist past.
Italy’s Five Star Movement, led by Beppe Grillo, voted to join the UKIP-led faction in an online referendum last week (here). It is the second largest party in the group with 17 MEPs after UKIP, which has 24.
Lithuania’s Order and Justice Party made good on its pledge to stay loyal to the EFD (here), after the Danish People’s Party, Italy’s Lega Nord, The Finns Party and Dutch MEP Bas Belder left for other groups (here).
It was thought the EFD faced a struggle to find enough delegations to reform. Now the pressure is on Marine Le Pen’s alliance of far right parties to find the support she needs to find a group from a dwindling pool of MEPs. If she can’t, the alliance will miss out on about €22 million over the course of the parliament’s five year term, excluding salaries and expenses (here).
Open Europe, a think tank, estimate the new EFD could claim about €3.8m a year to fund the group, a pan-European political party and their own think tank.
“We will be at the forefront working for the restoration of freedom, national democracy and prosperity across Europe,” Farage said.
“I am excited about working together with other delegations to be effective in exerting as much change as possible in Brussels while labouring at home to alert people to the harm that EU regulation does to the lives of ordinary people. Expect us to fight the good fight to take back control of our countries’ destinies.
“We have struggled against much political opposition to form this group and I am sure it will operate very well. Now it is formed I expect other delegations to join soon.”
The new group will meet in Brussels on the afternoon of Tuesday, 24 June.
“It is a great victory for direct democracy. For the first time in Europe, citizens chose their spokesperson and have told them where to stay in the European Parliament. Now we will start working in Committees and we will have peoples’ voice heard in the European Institutions, without intermediaries. This is great!” Beppe Grillo said.
The Five Star Movement will call for the abolition of the fiscal compact, adoption of eurobonds, the creation of an alliance between the Mediterranean countries for a common policy, the abolition of balanced budget, as well as holding a referendum for Italy to remain in the euro.
Despite a rise in anti-European parties, political balances remained broadly unchanged in the European Parliament following the elections held between 22 and 25 May, with the centre-right and centre-left parties on track for a grand coalition.
The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) won 221 seats in the European Parliament, followed by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), with 189 seats (out of 751).
Other parties are in negotiations to form groups in the European Parliament. To form a group, which qualifies for funding, it must have 25 MEPs from at least seven member states. With tonight's arrivals, the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group will be able to reform.