Far-Right Faction in EU Parliament Is Recreated as Bigger Force

Jonathan Stearns

(Bloomberg) -- A far-right group in the European Parliament re-established itself as a bigger force after posting gains in last month’s elections, which further fragmented the legislative body as it looks to shake up the European Union establishment.

The faction, which includes the nationalist parties of Italian Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini and France’s Marine Le Pen, will hold around 10% of the seats in the new European Union assembly compared with 5% before.

The expansion results from vote increases for Salvini’s League and Le Pen’s National Rally as well as a decision by the Alternative for Germany party to join the euroskeptic alliance. AfD, which also won more seats, had been part of a separate EU Parliament group that includes Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, yet another populist winner in the May 23-26 ballot.

“Europe has to be built on the basis of the nation state,” Marco Zanni, Italian head of the far-right faction, told reporters on Thursday in Brussels. “The attempt to create a European superstate hasn’t brought any added value.”

The euroskeptic surge -- fueled by the economic and migration crises in Europe over the past five years -- was held in check by parallel gains for the Liberals and the Greens, both pro-EU forces.

Their strong showing means the political center broadly held even though the mainstream Christian Democrats and Socialists saw their combined share of EU Parliament seats fall below 50% for the first time.

The more crowded middle ground has complicated the task of filling top EU jobs including the presidency of the European Commission, the 28-nation bloc’s executive arm, as the Liberals and Greens seek greater influence over the appointments.

The far-right faction in the EU Parliament is due to have 73 members from nine member countries when the new 751-seat assembly starts its five-year term in early July. The group, which has been called Europe of Nations and Freedom, is changing its name to Identity and Democracy.

Should the U.K. leave the EU by the latest deadline of end-October, Identity and Democracy would have a bigger share of seats. That’s because Britain’s 73 members of the new EU Parliament will be scattered among other groups and because the assembly is due to shrink to 705 seats whenever Brexit happens.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at jstearns2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Richard Bravo

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