Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Bardella heads Patriots for Europe, EU Parliament’s third-largest group

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the European Council, in Brussels on June 27, 2024.

Marine Le Pen has failed to create the large political group she’d dreamed of in the European Parliament, one that would have brought together all the sovereignist and populist parties of the Old Continent. But the Rassemblement National (RN, far right), which, with 30 MEPs, represents the largest delegation of elected representatives in Strasbourg − ahead of the German CDU (Christian Democratic Union) with 29 − can congratulate itself on belonging to the third-largest group in the Strasbourg institution.

On Monday, July 8, the French far-right party announced that it was joining the Patriots for Europe. Jordan Bardella took over the presidency of this new alliance, which now numbers 84 MEPs representing 12 nationalities, compared with 188 for the Christian Democrats of the European People’s Party (EPP) and 136 for the Social Democrats (S&D). Still, it has placed ahead of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), another far-right group, more Atlanticist than the Patriots and pro-Ukraine, dominated by Fratelli d’Italia, the post-fascist party of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The liberals of Renew, which includes French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, have been relegated to fifth place.

On June 30, in Vienna, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party announced their intention to join forces with the far-right Austrian party FPÖ and the ANO party of former Czech prime minister Andrej Babis. On that day, the three leaders laid the foundations of the Patriots which they positioned against military support for Ukraine, in opposition to “illegal immigration” and in favor of “the traditional family.” In the days that followed, other parties joined the group, including Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom, the Portuguese party Chega, Spain’s Vox, the Danish People’s Party, the Flemish independence party Vlaams Belang and the Italian Lega Nord.

The RN took part in the discussions from the outset, but Le Pen, absorbed by the French parliamentary elections, opted to wait until July 8, the day after the second round, to make official her departure from Identity and Democracy (ID), which has now lost most of its troops and has, in effect, been absorbed into the Patriots. No doubt she’d been hoping that Bardella, who didn’t make the trip to Brussels on Monday, would be in a position by then to move into the office of French prime minister.

Isolation

Among Bardella’s six vice presidents is an Italian general elected from Matteo Salvini’s Lega, Roberto Vannacci, who caused controversy during the campaign for racist and homophobic writings. In a book published in 2023, he concluded that homosexuals were not “normal people” and felt that the Nigerian-born Italian volleyball champion Paola Egonu could not embody “Italianness” because of her skin color. Bardella, who on Monday acknowledged “mistakes” in the nomination of certain controversial candidates for the legislative elections in France, has clearly been less cautious in Brussels.

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