Monday, June 22, 2009

Conservatives Form New European Parliament Group

So, David Cameron and William Hague have defied their critics and announced the formation of a new grouping within the European Parliament. It will have at least 55 MEPs from 8 different countries. So much for those in the EPP who said it could never be done. And it has been done without resorting to lining up with fruitcake parties with dubious views. A lot of the credit for this goes to William Hague and Europe Spokesman Mark Francois. No doubt a lot of mud will be thrown by the EPP and other Tory opponents but virtually all the members of the new group are down the line, mainstream politicians. ConHome lists them as...

* 26 British Conservative MEPs
* 15 Polish MEPs from the Law and Justice Party
* 9 Czech MEPs from the Civic Democratic Party
* 1 MEP from Belgium's Lijst Dedecker - Derk Jan Eppink, a Dutchman who is a former senior European Commission official
* 1 MEP from Finland's Centre Party, Keskusta - Hannu Takkula (who has left the Liberal Group where the rest of his party sits)
* 1 MEP from the Hungarian Democratic Forum - Lajos Bokros, a former finance minister
* 1 MEP from the Latvian National Independence Movement - Roberts Zile, a former finance and transport minister
* 1 MEP from the Dutch Christian Union - Peter van Dalen
I suppose there will be comment about the fact that the Polish Law & Justice party is involved, as one or two of their members have said some pretty objectionable things about homosexuality. But then there is the odd member of the Cornerstone Group who holds some strange views on that subject too. The good thing is that Law & Justice do seem to be liberalising their stance somewhat. Their lead MEP, Adam Bielan, recently responded to criticism for Denis MacShane on this point in a letter which he wrote to the Guardian.

Denis MacShane makes an unfair allegation against my party, Law and Justice, calling us "gay-haters". We are fully committed to human rights and equality under the law, and object to all forms of discrimination, whether on grounds of race, sex or sexual orientation. We are the second-largest party in the Polish Sejm, and hold the presidency of the republic. To make such claims, simply because we believe in a Europe of nations and share David Cameron's opposition to Euro-federalism, is pretty low.
Adam Bielan MEP (7 May 2009)

Before Labour throws too many stones on this perhaps they ought to look at their own PES Group in the European Parliament. The majority of the Democratic Left Alliance MEPs (Labour’s Polish sister party, allies in the Party of European Socialists (PES) in the European Parliament) were Communist Party members in the 1980s. The Czech Social Democrat MEPs also include a number of people who were active Communists in the 1980s. Mr Bogdan Golik of Samoobrona is a member of the PES. Samoobrona are a populist nationalist left wing party led by the former farmer Andrzej Lepper. Andrzej Lepper rose to prominence by populist grand-standing. He once accused the liberal conservative Civic Platform of having met members of the Taliban in a small Polish village to sell them anthrax. He is said to have worked with the anti-Semitic publisher Leszek Bubel (Stephen Roth Centre). At one point Jean Marie le Pen was his role model (ibid.). He has even, in a qualified way, praised Hitler. He said he ‘At the beginning of his activities, Hitler had a really good programme. He put Germany on its feet and eliminated unemployment … I don’t know what happened to him later ... who had such influence over him that he moved toward genocide’ (Zycie Warszawy, quoted in the Financial Times, 15 April 2004).

And before the LibDems say too much, consider some of the people who they sit with. They sit in the same group in the European Parliament as Latvia’s First Party/Latvian Way. They have demonstrated against gay pride parades in Riga, attempted to ban discussion of gay issues in the media (Agence France Presse, 7 September 2006) and have used exceptionally violent language against homosexuality - one of their leading figures, Janis Smits, whom they succeeded in appointing as Latvia’s human rights commissioner, described homosexuality as a ‘plague’ (Guardian, G2, 1 June 2007). They were re-elected to the European Parliament in 2009. The LibDems are also allied to extreme feminists: In the last European Parliament the Liberal Democrats sat in the same group as the Swedish Feminist Initiative, who believe that marriage is a form of male oppression and so should be banned and that there should be a special tax on men to recompense women for the violence men exclusively inflict on society.

Nice, eh? I only point this out to underline that all groupings in the Eurpopean Parliament contain one or two pretty strange characters. But the platform to which all 55 MEPs in this new group have signed up is straight down the lines mainstream conservatism...

1. Free enterprise, free and fair trade and competition, minimal regulation, lower taxation, and small government as the ultimate catalysts for individual freedom and personal and national prosperity.
2. Freedom of the individual, more personal responsibility and greater democratic accountability.
3. Sustainable, clean energy supply with an emphasis on energy security.
4. The importance of the family as the bedrock of society.
5. The sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to EU federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity.
6. The overriding value of the transatlantic security relationship in a revitalised NATO, and support for young democracies across Europe.
7. Effectively controlled immigration and an end to abuse of asylum procedures.
8. Efficient and modern public services and sensitivity to the needs of both rural and urban communities.
9. An end to waste and excessive bureaucracy and a commitment to greater transparency and probity in the EU institutions and use of EU funds.
10. Respect and equitable treatment for all EU countries, new and old, large and small.

So that's that then.


Verity said...

I don't see Geert Wilders's name anywhere. If this brave man is not involved, the group doesn't really have any legitimacy. I don't think we should be mixing around with a bunch of (save Poland) backward countries.

Socialist Lurker said...

No mention of the Tories SS apologist chums from Latvia in your article. As the tories clearly regard the Waffen SS as freedom fighters against Bolshevism, will see them laying wreaths for the British SS division who fought on the Eastern Front?

microdave said...

"1. Free enterprise"
~ ~ ~
"10. Respect and equitable treatment for all EU countries, new and old, large and small."

It ain't gonna happen - it would be like Turkeys voting for Christmas. Have you seen any evidence that the EU favours LESS regulation, rather than more?

David said...

Well, with a bit of help from Hague, DC delivers as promised. Inevitably the euro fanatics and UKIPers will give him little credit but this wasn't easy and creates a genuine way forward;within the EU but a different kind of EU where the member state is the key building block. Well done Hague!

JoeF said...

Would be nice to see more than 1 from several countries.

Having said that Bokros alone is worth at least 10 average MEPs (look him up- basically one of the very top economists in Europe, ex Finance Minister)

Verity- actually several of the other countries are more advanced than Poland- including Czech Republic. Don't confuse large with advanced.

DespairingLiberal said...

I don't know how much the EU Parliament grouping really matters - presumably government can still talk to government, so a Cameron government would still engage with Merkel & Sarkozy - but it is still a bit depressing.

Really this is the politics of cop out and cowardice. If the Tory leadership would properly stand up to the headbangers in it's own ranks, they would all push off to UKIP and the BNP and Cameron would have a genuine new party of the moderate center to build.

This result does serve as evidence that he could not manage that and makes one sceptical about the extent to which the Tories are really going to be a new party in office. Instead, one must strongly suspect that we will get many further years of rerunning the wearisome antics of Bill Cash and his brethren as in the John Major government.

Most of us members of the non-Tory public (and even many of the Tory public) got heartily sick of the wierd disconnect at that time between those bizarre in-fights and the reality of life outside the Little Englander-Land of Tory Xenophobes.

I feel very, very sorry for David Cameron that he has not been able to beat them and is instead saddled with the likes of William Hague. Or is it that Cameron is himself, behind all the smiley blather, a foreign-hater. Or is it really just that the party of the hedge funder wants to retain the separate right to opt out of all pro-citizen legislation and sell our assets to whatever bent foreign tax-avoider wants to purchase them?

Anonymous said...

The "European Conservatives and Reformists Group", eh? Isn't everybody either a conservative or a reformist, as you can only either change things or leave them as they are?

Still, I'm sure it's well worth missing out on the chance to influence Sarkozy and Merkel's views in group meetings before European Councils.

Cneifiwr said...

The sad thing about this is that our mainstream political parties have nearly always been broad churches. Thus the Conservatives can embrace Norman Tebbitt and Ken Clarke (well, just about). It is only when they go off the rails as Labour did with Michael Foot or the Conservatives did with Austin Chamberlain and Tariff Reform that they get into serious trouble and alienate large sections of their core support. The Conservatives aren't there yet, but the decision to plough on with this daft new grouping and the high profile of people like Hague should be enough to ring alarm bells about where the Conservative Party is going.

The Conservative Party has much more in common with parties such as the CDU in Germany than it does with this odd collection of fringe parties.

Anonymous said...

and I STILL don't trust cameron.Too near to phoney blair.This is a smokescreen.

Osama the Nazarene said...

Excellent initiative with Cameron delivering. An alternative anti-federalist centre of gravity in Europe is much needed. Lets hope it provides momentum for growth in influence!

Rob said...

Well well, a political leadership doing what they said they'd do. That's a refreshing change in this country. And it's not that Cameron and Hague hate foreigners, they just do not wish to be told what to do by them. This will actually increase the tories voice in the european parliament as they are the big fish in this particular pond. And let theftist naysayers remember, Europe needs the UK more than we need it.

David Lindsay said...

I give it a year. And that is only because I am feeling charitable today.

Take the Dutch Christen Unie, the latest manifestation of a long tradition of overtly Calvinistic politics in the Netherlands. It may be a bit Green and a bit pro-immigration, but it supports the one-earner model, so that one parent, usually the mother, can stay at home and take care of the children. It wants to leave Sunday a day of rest. It is opposed to abortion and euthanasia, and instead supports adoption and palliative care. It would end the Dutch policy of toleration towards drugs, pornography and prostitution. It would enable civil servants to refuse to conduct same-sex "marriages". It defends church schools. It would limit the use of genetic manipulation. It supports the public services, in the public sector. And it wants to increase spending on international development.

In other words, it is too good for Cameron's Tories. They all are. They deserve British allies like the Labour MPs who mostly voted against Heath's Treaty of Rome. Who all voted against Thatcher’s Single European Act. And who voted against Major’s Maastricht Treaty in far greater numbers than the Tories, including the only resignation from either front bench in order to do so.

They deserve British allies like the trade unionists who have spent decades defending the high-waged, high-skilled, high-status jobs of the working class. Not for us the restriction of travel to the rich, or the arresting of economic development in the poorer parts of the world.

They deserve British allies like the Catholic and other Labour MPs, including John Smith, who fought tooth and nail against abortion and easier divorce. Like the Methodist and other Labour MPs, including John Smith, who fought tooth and nail against deregulated drinking and gambling. Like those, including John Smith, who successfully organised (especially through USDAW) against Thatcher's and Major's attempts to destroy the special character of Sunday and of Christmas Day, delivering the only Commons defeat of Thatcher's Premiership. And like the trade unionists who battled to secure paternal authority in families and communities by securing its economic base in high-waged, high-skilled, high-status male employment, frequently marching behind banners that depicted Biblical scenes and characters.

And they deserve British allies with deep roots in the former mining communities, in the women's suffrage movement, in the 1945 General Election victory, and elsewhere. We are unsullied by the weird cult of Winston Churchill. Instead, we can and do condemn his carve-up of Europe with Stalin. Just as we condemn genocidal terrorism against Slavs and Balts no less than genocidal terrorism against Arabs, or the blowing up of British Jews going about their business as civil servants, or the photographed hanging of teenage British conscripts with barbed wire.

Many of them need these British allies in order to call them away from neoliberal economics and neoconservative foreign policy, both of which have in any case collapsed. Nothing could be more destructive of national self-government, or traditional family values, or the historical consciousness of a people. Cameron is completely signed up to both.

So I give it a year. And that is only because I am feeling charitable today.

Janis B. said...

There are no SS apologists in TB/LNNK - not enough for any Socialist's liking.

The claim is entirely different - that those men were neither Nazi (members of NSDAP) nor SS. The Germans were reluctant to bestow on conscripted Balts the "honour" of being considered "real SS" -- something which folks motivated by ill will are so eager to do nowadays. It was reflected in having different oath, different designations of ranks and units, refusal of admittance to "SS facilities", etc. And the Western allies recognized it soon after war. Many - not just Socialist Lurkers - may be rather surprised to learn that former Baltic legionaries were not condemned at Nuremberg. Instead they were serving under Americans and Brits guarding Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg:

"After the war, the UNRRA accepted explanations by Latvian refugee officials and diplomats that the legionnaires were not of a mind with Hitler but ordinary Latvians of whom the majority were neither SS nor volunteers but were recruited or coerced to participate. UNRRA told the Allied troops occupying Germany to free any interned legionnaires.

It is well documented that the German Waffen-SS committed atrocities. The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials declared the SS, the SD, and the Gestapo criminal organizations. Almost all elements of the SS were considered to be criminal, "except conscripts who had committed no crimes," that is, Waffen-SS divisions composed of Balts. Thus many former Latvian legionnaires were used to guard the prison and the Nuremberg Palace of Justice for a couple of years beginning with spring 1947.

The US intelligence service investigated the legionnaires and cleared them of charges. Ignoring Moscow's objections, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service did not refuse the immigration of Latvian legionnaires. American Displaced Persons Commissioner Harry Rosenfield announced in September 1950: "The Baltic Waffen SS Units (Baltic Legions) are to are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities and qualifications for membership from the German S.S., and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States under section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended."

Source: Jukka Rislakki, "The Case for Latvia: Disinformation Campaigns Against a Small Nation"; also that the site of Latvian Foreign Ministry

There is quite a collection of referenced photos of the former Baltic legionaries at Nuremberg at this site:

Hope this clarifies some of the willful distortions.

Niklas Smith said...

The LibDems are also allied to extreme feminists: In the last European Parliament the Liberal Democrats sat in the same group as the Swedish Feminist Initiative, who believe that marriage is a form of male oppression and so should be banned and that there should be a special tax on men to recompense women for the violence men exclusively inflict on society.

A small correction here: Maria Carlshamre MEP was asked to stand down by her party, the Swedish Liberal People's Party, after being convicted of accounting irregularities in 2005. Instead she defected to Feminist Initiative (who are about as wacky as Iain says). She nevertheless chose to stay in the ALDE group in the European Parliament, so the Lib Dems (and indeed her Swedish colleague) had no choice.

Oh, and I'm curious to know what made Mr Tarkulla jump ship from the Liberal (ALDE) group and abandon his two Centre Party colleagues. Did Mr Cameron offer him Sir Peter Viggers' now redundant duck house?

Chrome diplomat said...

Uncle Bob:

You clearly don't understand how these things work- this absolutely does not give the Tories more influence.

To get a vote passed in the European Parliament you need two of the big three groupings. To do this you need influence over that group and that influence has to come from within. There isn't the whipping system so much for EP groups as there is for Westminster parties so you have to carry people on strength of the argument you give them during the individual group meetings. If your not in the room your not able to do this.

Being a big fish in a small pond will just mean Tories can carry their rag tag bag, this decision gives Tory MEP a far harder job to do and less resources to do it on everything for helping choose on Commissioners (EPP block has massive weight in this decision), to individual piece of legislation (the bigger groups get more Chairmanships and more chances to be the rapporteurs who draft the EP's reports on the legislation.

Also- the idea that we need Europe more than they need us is moronic- you want to see what real dictation from Brussels looks like- pull out of the EU and start having our trade laws sent through by fax.

Jimmy said...

"The "European Conservatives and Reformists Group", eh? "

Perhaps "Salon des Refuses" was taken?

You just know this is a gift will keep giving.

Cicero said...

If this is how Cameron is going to deal with Europe, then he may not actually get enough power to become PM- his partners are utterly farcial. This is an embarassing joke...

Appalling lack of judgement.

Pete Chown said...

While we are a member of the EU as it stands, we are not a democracy, because unelected foreigners make most of our laws. I wish David Cameron and the new grouping good luck, in creating a slimmed-down and democratic alternative.

I would suggest scrapping the Parliament and the Commission, then replacing the Council with a programme of multilateral summits. At these summits, countries which wanted to participate in joint programmes could agree to do so, but there would be no obligation on others to join in. I would hope that Britain would choose not to participate in any costly European programmes such as the CAP or regional aid. (Our aid budget would be much better spent on countries which are in serious need, not the middle-income countries of Eastern Europe.)

Instead of detailed regulations to implement the single market, we should just have the principle that EU goods should be treated the same as domestic goods. Countries can have whatever regulations they like on, say, toothpaste--provided they allow compliant products from other EU countries to be sold.

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