Europe's far right unveil political bloc

10th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, Jan 10, 2007 (AFP) - Europe's anti-immigrant parties unveiled Wednesday a far-right bloc, boosting the influence of politicians like France's Jean-Marie Le Pen and the grand-daughter of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

BRUSSELS, Jan 10, 2007 (AFP) - Europe's anti-immigrant parties unveiled Wednesday a far-right bloc, boosting the influence of politicians like France's Jean-Marie Le Pen and the grand-daughter of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Dubbed "Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty", the European Parliament political group draws together nationalist and euroskeptic deputies but also includes lawmakers accused of anti-Semitism or questioning the Holocaust.

Announcing its imminent formation at a well attended press conference in

Brussels, group chairman Bruno Gollnisch, a member of France's National Front, slammed claims that the bloc would be a bunch of hooligans.

"I don't know where the hooligans are. I can't see any," he told reporters, and listed the 20 deputies slated to join as a mix of business leaders, medical experts, university professors, journalists and an artist.

By forming a far-right political group -- the first in the European assembly for more than a decade -- the lawmakers will secure access to EU funds and a seat on the parliament's conference of presidents.

Gollnisch said he hoped to finalise its formation next week.

The group's future was secured on January 1, when Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union, bringing with them 18 and 35 MEPs respectively.

In particular the five deputies from the Parti Romania Mare, whose leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor has been accused of xenophobia and anti-Semitism and charged with defamation, helped the bloc realise its ambitions.

At least 20 MEPs from five countries are required to form a political group.

Gollnisch said that 17 lawmakers had signed up officially, two others had confirmed to him by fax that they would join and that one other had given him assurances of coming aboard by e-mail.

Seven French deputies would be involved -- including National Front leader and presidential hopeful Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine -- and Andreas Moelzer, once ejected from Austria's far-right Freedom Party for being too extreme.

Two Italians would take part, including Alessandra Mussolini, grand-daughter of the former dictator.

Belgian Vlaams Belang leader Franck Vanhecke and two other members of his Flemish nationalist party are also in, along with British MEP Ashley Mote and a Bulgarian lawmaker.

Gollnisch, who is awaiting a verdict in his trial over remarks about the

Nazi death camp gas chambers, refused to name the deputies who had not yet officially joined.

"Many of our members are being pressured so that this group does not see the light of day, because our adversaries are furious at the idea that we might exist," he said.

Drawn together more by a need for political means than shared ideology, the group recognises "national interests, sovereignties, identities and differences", and opposes a "unitary, bureaucratic, European superstate".

Its platform also includes commitments to Christian and traditional family values.

"Our ideas are shared by more and more people and if we really let them speak you would realise that," said Gollnisch, who was clearly reluctant to allow his new allies to address the press conference.

It is not the first time that the far-right has had a bloc in the assembly. Le Pen led the Group of the European Right from 1984 to 1989, and the Technical Group of the European Right from 1989 to 1994.

Mainstream MEPs said the parties were within their rights to form a group but expressed some concern about their ideas

"It gives us something to think about and work on, because if we don't pay attention ... the extreme right or left will get stronger in years to come," said Joseph Daul, newly elected head of the conservative parliamentary group.

"These people from these parties have always played a marginal role," said Monica Frassoni, Greens joint president. "It's perfectly legitimate to form a group but their capacity to integrate with the other groups can be ruled out."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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