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Jo Leinen: UKIP and 5-Stars gave life to a fake group

An anti-populist amendment to the review the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure sparked anger in Brussels. The group Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) harshly criticized the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) for a move which was read as an attempt to stop the anti-establishment forces in their activity of building up alliances.

The main idea is to cap to a quarter the members of a European political group coming from a single EU country. The amendment number 2 to the proposal of review the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, as presented by Jo Leinen on behalf of the S&D group, called to establish the principle of “political affinity” as condition to allow the creation of any group. In other words, the different members have to work in continuous and coordinated manner, and must be part of the same political family, in order to guarantee to really share same values and programs.

“It is not about avoiding political alliances”, it is about “avoiding the creation of fake groups” into the European Parliament, the German SPD politician told me.

From the EFDD group [in which UKIP’s Nigel Farage and Italy’s 5-Star Movement  sit] MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo accused you to avoid new alliances in the light of the next European elections. How do you reply?

“Five Star Movement (M5S) and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) gave life to a fake group, an artificial parliamentary group. They have never had meetings, they have no common ground. They formed a group in order to enjoy benefits, such as the money granted by the Parliament in case of a group. Having a group into the Parliament is a privilege”.

Does this explain your amendment?

“In the last years we saw strange maneuvers, totally unusual and not transparent. Take Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD), for instance. It split in two-three different groups*. The European Parliament shouldn’t be so naive”.

Is it fair that the Conference of presidents be the body in charge of deciding on creation and dismantle of political groups, or should be the Plenary to do so?

“We must have check procedures to analyze the parliamentary groups. The top of the European Parliament should look at this requirements and verify if such requirements are fulfilled or not”.

Do the other S&D MEPs share your amendment?

“I am coordinator in the committee on Constitutional affairs. We have discussed over a month on what to do to avoid fake groups. I can tell you that a previous amendment was even tougher than this”. 

What about the other political groups? What do they think?

“The Greens and the European United Left (GUE-NGL) have no reason to be scared. We said that members of the group should belong to the same party or the same family of parties”.

So there is no way back, isn’t it? There are speculations about a possible withdrawal of the amendment…

“There is no intention to withdraw it. Now the amendment is being checked by the legal services of the European Parliament, so if the legal services will rule that it is eligible then it will go to the Plenary”.

When? Can we expect a vote already next week in Strasbourg?

“It was foreseen for the next week, but as I said now it is up to the legal services of the Parliament. In case, the vote will take place in the mini-Plenary session at the end of the month”.

*editor’s note: five out seven MEP elected within the lists of AfD left the party and became members of the German party LKR, and they now sit with the ECR group as independent. Marcus Pretzell founded his own party, The Blue Party, and moved to the ENF group together with Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini. Jorg Meuthen is currently an EFDD member.

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