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Last Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007, 17:50 GMT
New EU countries boost far-right
Bruno Gollnisch
French MEP Bruno Gollnisch will lead the new 'Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty' group
The accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU has had a curious side affect on the dynamics of the European Parliament.

With the support of new Eastern allies, far-right MEPs now have enough members to form an official Parliamentary grouping.

European Parliament rules state that an official group may only be formed if it has the support of at least 19 MEPs from a minimum of five countries.

When the EU swelled to incorporate 27 members on 1 January this year, Europe's far-right MEPs gained the critical mass they needed to form 'Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty' (ITS).

French National Front
Austrian Freedom Party
Vlaams Belang (Flemish nationalists)
Greater Romania Party
National Union Attack (Bulgaria)
Alternativa Sociale, Fiamma Tricolore (Italy)
Ashley Mote (Independent)

Thanks to its official status, the far-right group can now access more funding (around 50,000 euros or 33,000 per member) and will have a say in setting the agenda for debating sessions.

ITS is made up of the Greater Romania party, the Austrian Freedom Party, the French National Front, the Italian Social Action party and Vlaams Belang, a party of Belgian Flemish nationalists.

ITS members include Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Italian dictator and Marine Le Pen, daughter of France's far-right leader, Jean-Marie.

Policy positions

Together they will focus on "defending Christian values, the family, and European civilization," French National Front MEP Bruno Gollnisch told the BBC.

ITS also plans to oppose Turkish accession to the EU and any movement on the European constitution.

For a group broadly opposed to immigration some see it as ironic that the EU's latest Eastward expansion should have granted the far-right their greatest parliamentary wish.

The group will be led by Bruno Gollnisch and is expected to be presented at the assembly's next sitting in Strasbourg on Tuesday 16 January.

The leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, called on the other groups to isolate the ITS group.

Mr Schulz wants the parliament to suspend next week's elections in an effort to prevent ITS from "getting any significant positions within the parliament".

Ashley Mote MEP
Independent UK MEP has joined the 'Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty' group
British representation

On Thursday there was more good news for ITS when UK MEP Ashley Mote announced that he too would be pledging allegiance.

"The formation of a genuine centre-right multinational group in the European Parliament is long overdue," Mr Mote declared.

The independent MEP for the South East of England was expelled from UKIP in 2004 and says the new group will be "good for the Parliament" and voters.

But UKIP has reacted furiously to the news and urged Mr Mote to give up his seat.

"People in the South East of England did not vote for this and he should have the decency to resign and give UKIP back their seat," a spokeswoman for the party said.

Ashley Mote's website
Controversial allies

While Mr Mote has expressed his delight at finding a new parliamentary family, he has also attempted to assure voters that he does not wish to be associated with the activities of some of its members via his website.

"May I make clear that I am not involved in the political activities of any of the other member states represented in ITS," he said.

"Nor are MEPs from those member states planning to involve themselves in British politics."

One of Mr Mote's new allies has recently been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

French MEP Bruno Gollnisch is currently awaiting a verdict on charges of Holocaust denial.

The Record: Europe is broadcast on BBC Parliament on Saturdays at 23.00h, Sundays at 16.30h and Mondays at 10.30h (all London time) and on BBC World and BBC News 24.

Watch the latest edition of the Record: Europe

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