29 Jan 2007

Why a far-right party group in the Parliament will have little formal influence, but should still be taken seriously

Sara Hagemann

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The recent formation of a far-right party group in the European Parliament has raised a series of important questions with regard to the internal organisation and representation of interests in the EU’s only directly elected institution. In this commentary, Sara Hagemann looks into what powers the far-right politicians actually achieve by joining forces and finds that although there are great financial and organisational incentives for these extremists to meet in a trans-national party group, little formal political influence awaits them. She argues, in fact, that the far-right extremists may find it difficult to align their various radical and nation-specific political ambitions into a coherent agenda, and MEPs from other party groups should therefore take the opportunity to explain and debate the consequences of having extreme, single-issue representatives in a democratic legislature. Thereby it is not only far-right extremists who gain recognition as a formal party group by bringing populist, domestic issues into the EU political sphere, but other MEPs may – at last – be able to increase the level of interest in EU political debates from their electorates, at least within the sensitive areas addressed by these far-right politicians.