EU opposition unveils 'anti-federalist' EU parliament group
The European Conservatives and Reformist Group hopes to be the fourth largest group in the European Parliament, with 55 members from eight countries.Brussels -- Britain's opposition Conservatives on Monday announced the formation of a new "anti-federalist" bloc in the European parliament along with Polish, Czech and other right-wing parties.
The European Conservatives and Reformist Group hopes to be the fourth largest group in the 736-seat parliament with 55 members from eight countries, following the June 4-7 European elections.
The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) remains the largest political group in the EU parliament despite the defection of the British Tories.
"We are very excited about this important new development in European politics," Mark Francois, Britain's shadow minister for European affairs, said on the Conservative Party web site.
"Our European Conservatives and Reformists Group, which already has 55 MEPs, will make a strong case for a centre/centre-right but non-federalist future for the EU," he added.
The British opposition party, which has strong hopes of winning a domestic general election within a year, quit the EPP, deeming it to be too much in favour of increasing European integration.
The Conservatives are the biggest member of the new entity they have formed, with 26 MEPs.
In order to set up a recognised group in the new European parliament the Conservatives had to muster at least 25 MEPs from at least seven member states and negotiations have been taking place since the European parliament elections.
The Polish Law and Justice party, founded by Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his twin and former Prime Minister Jaroslaw, is the second largest party in the new formation with 15 MEPs.
The Czech ex-prime minister Mirek Topolanek's Civic Democratic Party is also joining up with its nine members of the European parliament.
Right-wing political groups from Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Latvia and the Netherlands provide one MEP each to the new group.
Parts of the British press, as well as the Labour government, have already criticised the opposition party for getting into bed politically with far-right parties elsewhere in Europe.
The ultra-nationalist Latvian National Independence Movement has been singled out for attention. It has courted controversy through its involvement in an annual march of veterans who fought with the Nazis in World War II.
The Polish party's stance hinges on traditional Catholic family values, and one of the new group's founding principles is "the importance of the family as the bedrock of society."
The group expects to enter the new European parliament as the fourth biggest bloc, when it sits for the first time next month, behind the EPP, the socialists and the liberals and just ahead of the Greens.
According to its mission statement, its guiding principles include free enterprise, lower taxes, freedom of the individual, and "opposition to EU federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity."
"The sovereign integrity of the nation state" is key for the group which will also champion "effectively controlled immigration and an end to abuse of asylum."
The group sees the security relationship with the United States as being of "overriding value in a revitalised NATO".
In what is likely to be a popular pledge, it also promises to do battle against "excessive bureaucracy" and to commit to "greater transparency and probity in the EU institutions and use of EU funds."