N-VA joins ECR group in European Parliament
Belgium’s largest party, the nationalist N-VA has chosen to join the famously Euro sceptic group over Guy Verhofstadt’s liberal ALDE
Blow to Verhofstadt’s European ambitions
Both a wary attitude towards Verhofstadt (pictured) and N-VA president Bart De Wever’s admiration for David Cameron, the British prime minister who founded ECR, played a role in the surprise decision. In the previous term, N-VA was part of EVA, a mix of greens and regionalists.
With four extra N-VA MEPs, the right wing ECR now becomes the third largest group in the European Parliament, after Christian-democrats and socialists, but ahead of ALDE. This is a blow to Verhofstadt’s hopes of becoming president of the assembly. Flemish newspapers spoke of Verhofstadt being “humiliated”. In the past, the liberal has lamented N-VA’s nationalism, but recent weeks saw a rapprochement.
The ECR is by and large Eurosceptic, much more so than N-VA, which has always called itself “pro-European”. Besides the British Conservatives, it includes, among others, the German Alternative für Deutschland, the Polish Law and Justice and two parties deemed extreme-right – the True Fins and the Danish People’s Party.
N-VA’s decision provoked strong reactions in Flanders. “Honestly, there are some scum in that group. I have no idea what N-VA will do there,” said the usually soft-spoken Ivo Belet, MEP for CD&V. Open VLD’s Guy Vanhengel called N-VA a “motley crew”: “After a term with the greens and weeks of fooling the liberals, they now show their true face: ultra-conservative, Eurosceptic and by no means liberal. It has the advantage of clarity. Also for their position in this country.”
Vanhengel also referred to the on-going federal government talks, in which Open VLD might no longer be eager to help out N-VA. Open VLD president Gwendolyn Rutten, however, says that this will not influence her party’s willingness to enter government.