[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Right fights for parliament bloc
By William Horsley
BBC European Affairs correspondent

The European Parliament is under siege from its fiercest opponents.

Jean Marie Le Pen
Le Pen's party is divided against itself
Various far-right parties, nationalists and Eurosceptics, including groups in the new EU states, look like being a significant force in the parliament after the elections from 10-13 June.

Far-right parties have been among the most vocal critics of the idea of a European superstate.

Their best-known leaders, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, the boss of the French National Front, and Joerg Haider, the main force behind the Austrian Freedom Party, are raising their anti-immigrant and anti-EU rhetoric again.

Mr Le Pen predicts the formation of a "strong nationalistic movement inside the European Parliament".

And there is a chance of a revival of a formal "European Right" grouping in the Strasbourg parliament.


It may also include the Belgian Vlaams Blok, the Slovak Movement for a Democratic Slovakia - the vehicle for populist ex-Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, who talks tough talk against Hungarian and Roma minorities - and the Self-Defence of the Polish Republic, led by the populist firebrand Andrzej Lepper.

But these groups, with their often shrill or xenophobic message, are no longer such a threat to Europe's political order as they were.

They are prone to in-fighting and would have trouble agreeing a common platform.

Sangatte refugee camp, now closed by French Government
France has adopted a tougher stance on immigration
The National Front in France is divided against itself, after its hot-tempered leader Mr Le Pen promoted his daughter Marine and her young associates to the top of the party list for these elections.

National governments across Europe have stolen the far-right's thunder by themselves taking tough steps against illegal immigration.

The new wave of anti-EU feeling is represented by parties which reject the "far right" label.

They say that they are patriotic groups, struggling to keep their own nation's identity within a European Union of 25 states.

They even call themselves the true democrats of Europe, because they say EU power is unaccountable and national parliaments are the only source of political legitimacy.

In the last parliament their ideas were broadly represented by two political groupings, made up of 48 members.

One of their champions is the Danish Eurosceptic Jens-Peter Bonde, leader of the Europe of Democracies and Diversities group (EDD).

He hopes that Eurosceptics will double their number this time.


Public concerns about the planned EU constitution, and dismay in the new member-states at the unequal terms of their accession, have spawned similar-minded groups in virtually every EU state, except Germany.

Their champions include:

  • Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic, who mourned his country's accession to the EU as "the end of our national sovereignty". His Civic Democrats are far ahead of other parties in the polls.
  • Maciej Giertych of the strongly Catholic "League of Polish families", which is led by his son Roman. The younger Giertych says his group will do all it can to block the planned EU constitution and to take Poland out of the EU. Together, his party and Mr Lepper's Self-Defence party command over 25% of voter support.
  • Robert Kilroy-Silk, the former British Labour MP and TV celebrity who has joined the UK Independence Party. He accuses European governments of lying about the planned centralisation of power at European level through the planned constitution. Some opinion polls suggest that UKIP could win over 10% of the national vote on their platform of pulling Britain out of the Union.


Elsewhere, too, champions of national sovereignty are changing Europe's political landscape, through parties such as the anti-EU June Movement in Sweden, born out of the successful "No" campaign in last year's referendum on the euro currency.

The main election battleground will be between the centre-right (mostly Christian Democratic) parties of Europe and their centre-left or Social Democratic rivals. The right looks sure to dominate, thanks partly to the mood in the new member states.

But the Eurosceptics come in many guises. They include the far right, nationalists, communists, many of the Greens, and some of Europe's most enduring conservative parties - including those in Britain.

Expect a hard political battle for Europe's future.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific