|Author (Person)||Banks, Martin|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.11, No.35, 6.10.05|
By Martin Banks
Talk of Eurosceptic MEPs splitting from the European Parliament's centre-right EPP-ED group is resurfacing amid discontent over the EPP's pro-EU stance.
Against the backdrop of an election campaign for leadership of the UK's Conservative Party, one of the candidates, the former party chairman Liam Fox has declared that he is in favour of the 27 Tory MEPs splitting from the 267-strong EPP-ED group.
Jan Zahradil, leader of the Czech delegation of ODS MEPs, said: "There would be little point in us staying if the British delegation pulls out. What is clear is that there is real dissatisfaction among ODS deputies with the EPP."
The 30-strong European Democrats faction in the EPP-ED is made up of 27 UK Tory MEPs (from 28 elected), nine members of the ODS Party, two members of the Portuguese People's Party and an MEP from the Pensioners Party in Italy. Under the terms of the Conservatives' alliance with the EPP, they are allowed a free vote on constitutional and institutional issues.But they benefit from being part of the largest group in the Parliament, with access to funds and staffing.
The decision by the Conservatives to make a formal alliance with the EPP was contentious when it was first agreed in 1994 and its renewal ahead of the 2004 Parlia-mentary elections was the subject of fraught negoti-ation with the party leader Michael Howard.
The more Eurosceptic members of the British Conservatives are in-creasingly unhappy that they are allied with the pro-EU EPP. Martin Callanan, a Conservative MEP since 1999, said: "It is about time we put an end to this deeply hypocritical relationship."
Eurosceptic MEP Roger Helmer had the Conser-vative Party whip with-drawn in the summer after he had criticised the EPP-ED group leader, Hans-Gert Pöttering, in a row that highlighted tensions between the EPP and the Conservatives' Eurosceptic wing. Helmer said the link-up was "ridiculous".
Pöttering declared that he was not unduly concerned about possible defections.
He said: "No one knows who is going to win the Conservative election and, in any case, I believe the vast majority of members are happy to remain within the group."
UK Tory MEP James Elles, said: "I cannot see what could be gained by cutting the present alliance. We as UK Conservatives are already able to promote our own ideas. We have our own website and newsletter.
"We made an election manifesto pledge last year to remain in the EPP-ED group for the duration of this Parliamentary mandate and we should honour that commitment."
Opinion in the ODS delegation is divided, with some of the nine MEPs much less Eurosceptic then their leader, Zahradil, and more favourable to the EPP.
But domestic politics in the Czech Republic militate against the ODS breaking away from the EPP-ED group. The ODS' leader, Mirek Topolanek, is considered unlikely to make any change before the next national elections, expected in June. ODS voters have generally been more pro-EU than some of their MEPs.
Meanwhile the Portuguese Peoples Party has applied to join the EPP, which, if agreed, would reduce the size of the ED.
Article reports that the idea of Eurosceptic MEPs splitting from the European Parliament's centre-right EPP-ED group was resurfacing amid discontent over the EPP's pro-EU stance. The European Democrats faction in the EPP-ED was made up of 27 UK Conservative MEPs (from 28 elected), nine members of the Czech ODS Party, two members of the Portuguese People's Party and an MEP from the Pensioners Party in Italy. The UK's Conservative Party was going through the process of selecting a new leader at the time.
|Countries / Regions||Europe, United Kingdom|