Department of Unexpected Consequences (Balkan Division)

I don’t usually cite whole articles, but this recent piece over at birn.eu is too good to miss.

After years of vigorously opposing the eastwards expansion of the European Union, extreme-right-wing parties in the European Parliament, EP, ironically stand to benefit hugely from the Romanian and Bulgarian accession…

[A]agreement with nationalist parties from the two newcomers has opened the way for the first parliamentary group representing the hard right to be formed in the EP.

The new caucus… brings together about 20 members of the parliament, known as MEPs, from seven countries. Five will come from Romania, from the ultra-nationalistic and xenophobic Greater Romania Party. And one from Bulgaria’s Ataka party, which mainly campaigns against Bulgaria’s Roma and Turkish minorities.

Why is this happening now? Because the EU Parliament has a rule that a caucus, to be officially recognized, must have at least 19 members from five different countries. Until recently, the far right could only muster 14 members. But the new MEPS will push them over the line.

The other MEPs? Oh, you know. France’s National Front, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, Italy’s National Alliance. Allesandra Mussolini will be in it. The leader will be France’s Bruno Gollnisch, who is currently serving a suspended sentence for Holocaust denial. British readers may recognize Ashley Mote, the noted cricket writer, who was tossed out of UKIP a while back after being indicted for fraud. (Did anything ever come of that?)

The group already has a name: “Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty”. Well, who could possibly disagree with that?

The new caucus doesn’t have a formal agenda yet, but it’s not hard to deduce what it will be. Once you index out the particular national pathologies, and remove the bits that are unacceptable even in the EU Parliament (anti-semitism, gypsy-baiting, overt fascism), what’s left is mostly

1) carefully measured hostility to gays;
2) casting vague aspersions on the Holocaust;
3) opposition to further expansion; and,
4) a hard line on immigration.

Not much of a program, but then, it’s not really about the program. It’s about the noise.

Observers caution that it in terms of numbers it will remain insignificant, adding that 20 MEPs cannot hope to have very much impact on a parliament of 732 members.

Guillaume Durand, of the European Policy Centre, a think tank, said the formation of the group was “a significant political event but it is not going to change the overall balance in the EP”.

“It’s a minor group whose voice is not going to be much heard; they are small, unlikely to be very united as a group and are on the margins because of their ideas,” he added.

Well, we can hope. But it will certainly raise their visibility. And you and I will be paying for it, because caucuses are provided with a staff and funding.

[T]he westerners may find their new allies from Romania embarrassing. Five years ago the flamboyant nationalist Corneliu Vadim Tudor said Romania “could only be governed with a machine gun”. Moreover, Tudor’s vituperative attacks on Jews, Hungarians and Gypsies are still widely remembered.

This, too, strikes me as wishful thinking. When was the last time Le Pen was embarrassed by anything?

Still, read the whole thing.

(For completeness’ sake, here’s an article from the Guardian. But it’s Ian Traynor, so you can get the same effect by just murmuring “indignation, heavy sarcasm, indignation” to yourself half a dozen or so times.”)

5 thoughts on “Department of Unexpected Consequences (Balkan Division)

  1. That’s the price of democracy. Either you exclude these people where they operate under the minimal rules, or you bring them in to a controlled environment (think of it as a Golf Club) where there are clear sanctions if they break the rules. Or, think of it as the valve on a pressure cooker

    It also depends on actually how organized & disciplined they will be. It wouldn’t surprise me that once the novelty has worn off, that they would start fighting each other for prominence and power.

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