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New right-wing group to shape EU's direction

Alliance emerges as significant force in Parliament, boasting 84 lawmakers

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-07-10 09:29
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The newly established right-wing Patriots for Europe alliance in the European Parliament has great potential to influence the European Union's path forward, experts say.

Officially formed on Monday, it has become the third-largest political group in the 10th European Parliament, which will meet for the first plenary session next week in Strasbourg, France, including voting on whether Ursula von der Leyen will get a second term as European Commission president.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban (right), Herbert Kickl, the leader of Austria's Freedom Party (middle), and Andrej Babis, leader of the Czech Republic's ANO party, shake hands in Vienna, Austria, on June 30, after announcing the formation of a new EU parliamentary alliance. TOBIAS STEINMAURER / APA / AFP / AUSTRIA OUT

The group boasts 84 members of the European Parliament from 12 EU member states. It was launched only a week ago by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz party, with the ANO party of former Czech prime minister Andrej Babis and Austria's Freedom Party led by Herbert Kickl, literally succeeding the now-disbanded Identity and Democracy group.

The shot in the arm for the new group came when France's National Rally and Italy's League announced their participation.

The RN has 30 MEPs, while Fidesz has 11. The League has eight MEPs and the ANO has seven. Other major parties include Spain's Vox, Dutch PVV, Belgium's Vlaams Belang, Portugal's Chega, Czech Republic's Oath and Motorists, Greece's Voice of Reason, Denmark's People's Party and Latvia's First Party.

With 84 EU lawmakers, the new group has surpassed the European Conservatives and Reformists, or ECR, which has 78 MEPs, and the liberal Renew group, which has 76 MEPs, but still trails far behind the two largest groups, the European People's Party, or EPP, and the Socialists and Democrats.

RN President Jordan Bardella was appointed president of the group on Monday.

"As patriotic forces, we are going to work together in order to retake our institutions and reorient policies to serve our nations and peoples," he said.

Matteo Savini of the League said on social media on Monday, "After a long period of work, the big group of patriots, which will be decisive to change the future of Europe, comes to life in Brussels today."

Kinga Gal, a Fidesz MEP who will serve as the first vice-president of the group, told the media, "Our long-term goal is to change European Union policymaking."

Mariann Ory, managing editor of the Eurasia magazine in Budapest, said the new group is the best option under the circumstances and has enormous potential.

"For Viktor Orban, this is a great success, as he has become a major force in a party family where there are successful parties and where he is appreciated instead of the rude attacks and constant frustration that characterize the EPP," she told China Daily, referring to Fidesz's departure from the EPP in 2021.

Disagreeing on label

Ory disagrees with the labeling of the new group as "far right" by many European politicians and media.

"From a central European perspective, the PfE is not a far-right party family, but simply a right-wing, patriotic party family that stands on common sense on issues such as migration or war," she said.

"It is not these parties that are extremist, but the EPP has drifted so far to the left that from there everything is extreme right."

Orban's fundamental goal was to create a large right-wing group, which would essentially bring together the forces of Identity and Democracy and ECR, as well as parties potentially leaving the EPP and could even be the second-largest group in the parliament, Ory said, but the efforts to call for an agreement between Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy party and the RN's Marine Le Pen failed.

The different views on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and some other factors are among the stumbling blocks, she said.

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