Friday, 17 October 2014

Farage's EFDD Group collapses

The Euroskeptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group in the European Parliament has collapsed after the Lativan MEP Iveta Grigule withdrew from the group. This means that the group no longer has MEPs from the minimum 7 EU Member States required to be recognised as a political group within the Parliament (it has more than the 25 MEPs required as the second criteria). Having group status wins the group more resources, claims on positions within the Parliament and speaking time, so the collapse of the EFDD will hurt its member parties, the biggest of which are UKIP and the 5 Star Movement.

There has been speculation over what induced Grigule to withdraw her support from the EFDD.  Farage and the EFDD have claimed that it's part of a scheme by the bigger pro-European parties to deprive the Euroskeptic group of a bigger say in the Parliament. They say that Grigule was bribed with a post on the Kazakhstan parliamentary delegation. However others have said that she left the EFDD due to differences with Farage over his pro-Russian stance (Farage has said that he admires Putin). Grigule's Latvian Farmers' Union is currently in coalition talks for a Latvian government.

Some of the main Europarties have acted to squeeze the Euroskeptics from prominent parliamentary positions, which is indefensible after the elections saw a boost in the Euroskeptic vote (no EFDD member holds a chair of an EP committee, while the United Left holds the chair of one committee).  there may be a parliamentary majority for a Juncker Commission, but the Euroskeptic voice should be heard within the EU; the pro-EU Europarties only shoot themselves in the foot by denying the Euroskeptics a say proportionate to their weight in the EP.

Currently the speculation is swirling around the former EFDD member parties: will some be poached by the Front Nationale and Geert Wilders' PVV in a new attempt to form a far-right grouping? Will the 5 Star Movement be lured off to the Greens (unlikely given the 5SM's anti-EU views)?

Pro-EU Europarties should beware of gloating too much at the EFDD's demise. Regardless of how easily it (or how difficult it will find it to) reforms, playing games with representation in the EP is hardly worthy political action. Rather, the arguments of the Euroskeptics should be tackled head on.  This way, the larger parties risk portraying themselves as childish (or worse, blundering if this paves the way to a more far-right grouping). They may not have been involved in this case (I think it could be a combination of dissatisfaction with Farage's pro-Russian stance and the parliamentary arithmetic of getting the delegation post), but the Euroskeptic representation deserves more representation in the Parliament than it currently has.

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