Monday 22 June 2009

The European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECRG) - corrected and updated

The "European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECRG)", isn't that the most ridiculous combination one could imagine? Mixing those who want to conserve and those who want to reform?

But it has become a truth:

The British Tories, the Polish PiS and the Czech ODS form a joint eurosceptic group in the European Parliament. This brings together three of the most important not-so-European anti-good-things parties, those who want to conserve the bad sides (like nationalism) in the European Union and reform the good ones (like working together, liberalising interpersonal relations, etc).

But since nobody really wanted to play with them (who wants to play with such a strange trio), they needed to find a bunch of individual MEPs who seem to be so unpopular among their peers that they were ready to form the appendix of their three big brothers.

And they found five six of them, from Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, Latvia, and Lithuania. The theatre group is formed.

Well, this ridicules the idea of a parliamentary group, but since together they combine 56 MEPs from 9 countries [see update on figures at the end!] - more than the Greens - they do have the right to form an official faction in the European Parliament.

Will they hold together? - Probably yes, because it doesn't really hurt them to stick together and the financial and political advantages are probably higher than the losses. But still, according to the new Rules of Procedure (PDF) of the European Parliament (Article 30), they will have to keep up MEPs from at least one fourth of the EU's member countries.

However, if one of the partners says something stupid - and seeing this group it is more than probable that this will happen - the other can easily ignore it, since the national media won't notice it anyway. Being in that group will thus most likely not have any negative influence on the image of the parties. So the reasons to quit might remain lower than the incentives to stay in.

And, to be honest, I think the Union and the Parliament deserve such a strange group, which is the result of a rule made by the majority against the minority short before the elections - but a rule that is easily to circumvent by those who have the will to do it if it serves their individual advantage.

Doesn't that sound like most of the EU's regulations?

PS: Jon Worth has some more substance on this matter. Nosemonkey as well.

Correction (23 June 2009): One more MEP from Lithuania has to be included as I've learned at EurActiv.

Update (23 June 2009): Besides Grahnlaw and La Oreja de Europa who are backlinked below, Jon, Nosemonkey and The European Citizen have followed-up on the story. One of the news passing around today was that the Finnish Centre Party MEP will remain with his colleagues in the ALDE group, thus reducing the ECRG down to 55 MEPs from 8 member countries.


Antal Dániel said...

Julien, I don't agree with you that nobody wanted to play with these guys. They had been happily sitting in the EPP beforehand, and they could have stayed. (The PES has similar un-nice parties, like Smer from Slovakia).

I do hope that for some of these parties these grouping will cost votes at home dearly. The Hungarian Democratic Forum has been campaigning with 'normalcy' and positioned itself as the most centrist party in Hungary. Now they end up with zealots and witchhunters, because I think PiS, ODS and probably the Tories have these types in great numbers. That will give easy material for the national media. In Hungary, the PiS is too close to go unnoticed and it was not reported because they have not been directly connected to Hungary.

I like your description that this group is against good things and for the bad ones, although I don't think they are particularly nationalists. This is as if the right-wing of the Republican Party has formed a new group in the American Congress.

Although your analysis may be correct, that this move won't cost votes for the Tories, as their voters may think that the worse for EU the better, but for the other parties it will be an unconvenience. What will the PiS voters think about Tory civil liberties policies? And what will Hungarian Democratic Forum voters, who are actually rather green think of ODS that tries to stop Copenhagen.

Julien Frisch said...

Regarding your last paragraph: I have doubts that on the long run the national media or national competitors will make big use of opposing ideological positions of ECRG partner parties, even if their idea(l)s are completely opposite.

The national attention span for political details in the EP will soon be over, and then all that counts for the ECRG members is that they have more power than they have separately.

Only if national players opposing these parties are able to keep the views and positions of these unlikely partners up on the agenda, it might hurt.

But I have doubts that this will happen.

Antal Dániel said...

You may be right, but do not underestimate the power of the Kaczynski-party to bully or enrage anybody in Europe. They were lost in the big tent EPP with Berlusconi and others, but now it will be easier to question the Tories why they sit together with these guys.

Julien Frisch said...

I would be the most happy person if this happens! :-)