With EU elections just around the corner, Europe's conservative populist parties announced a new alliance Monday with the goal of becoming the strongest faction in the European Parliament, while seeking to radically influence EU policies on security, migration, family values and the environment, according to Euro News.
"The news is that we are broadening the community, the family. We are working for a new European dream today. For many Europeans, the EU (European Union) is a nightmare," Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters following a meeting of Europe's far-right party leaders met in Milan on Monday. Salvini is spearheading the alliance, called "Towards a Europe of Common Sense," which he says he hopes will "win and change Europe."
Salvini was joined Monday by the far-right Alternative for Germany’s co-leader Joerg Meuthen, Olli Kotro of the euroskeptic populist party The Finns, and Anders Vistisen of the right-wing, populist Danish People’s Party. Those parties now come from other parliamentary groups, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD). -AP
The alliance hopes to form a majority bloc following the May 23-26 elections - "the most numerous, important, determined and forward-looking group," according to Salvini.
"We are not aiming to lose or just participate. Our goal is to win and change the rules of Europe."
Europe’s right-wing populist parties are currently divided into three groups: The Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group — which includes Italy's the League, France's National Rally, Austria's Freedom Party and the Netherlands' Party for Freedom — the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which groups the Danish People's Party and the Finns Party among others, and the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), which has the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the UK's Brexit Party . -Euro News
The group's top priorities are a halt to all clandestine migration, restoring political sovereignty to EU nations, protecting "European culture," and stronger European borders - while the #1 threat to Europe is Islamic extremism.
"As interior minister for 10 months, the No. 1 risk in Italy and Europe is Islamic extremism, Islamic fanaticism, Islamic terrorism," said Salvini. "There are extreme-right and extreme-left minorities in Italy and in Europe, (but) they fortunately are controlled and of limited numbers."
Salvini rejected the notion that the groups are filled with political extremists bent on totalitarian rule.
"Today at this table there are no nostalgic extremists," he said, adding: "The only nostalgics are in power in Brussels. Today, we look ahead with a clear memory of what happened in the past, but the tired debate of right, left, fascist, communist, is not what makes us passionate."
Political experts say the May 23-26 European Parliament vote could prove to be a tipping point in post-war European politics, if traditional political powerhouses lose support and extremist, populist parties gain more clout.
The vote, which involves 705 seats this year, is run as national ballots in each of the bloc’s states. National political parties with common ideology then unite in EU-wide groups, like the center-right EPP, the center-left S&D Socialists or the liberal, pro-business ALDE.
The new euroskeptic alliance, launched under the banner “Toward a Europe of common sense,” expands on the parliament’s four-year-old Europe of Nations and Freedom Group (ENF), which already includes France’s far-right National Rally, Austria’s Freedom Party and the Netherland’s Party for Freedom. -AP
The alliance, which is holding a rally on May 18 in Milan's central Piazza Duomo, says their invitation is open to all like-minded parties who wish to join the faction. If they win a majority in the EU elections, the group would cancel for good the process of inviting Turkey to become a member of the European Union - a process which has been stalled for years.