Far-right group in disarray as MEPs seek to end its funding

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The Independent Online

A new far-right group in the European Parliament is in disarray after one of its MEPs disowned a colleague for attacking the "Jewish establishment" and for accusing Roma parents of selling their daughters into prostitution.

The rift emerged at yesterday's press conference to launch an ultra-nationalist group called Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty. It is led by Bruno Gollnisch, of France's National Front, who is awaiting a court verdict on charges of Holocaust denial.

It came as centre-left and Green MEPs sought to strip the group of public funding and enhanced speaking rights, and to prevent it taking positions on parliamentary committees.

The only British parliamentarian in the far-right grouping, Ashley Mote, a former Ukip MEP, turned on his 23-year-old Bulgarian colleague, Dimitar Stoyanov, over comments made in yesterday's Independent. Mr Stoyanov, of Bulgaria's Ataka Party and the parliament's youngest MEP, had denied being anti-Semitic but said he opposes the "Jewish establishment", which uses normal Jewish people "like pawns". Justifying criticism of Roma communities, he argued: "If you put the children in a bad parental environment you cannot expect them to integrate. If you turn a daughter into a prostitute when they are 12 years old you cannot expect them to develop a moral awareness.

"They are sending their daughter out begging or selling them to older men. Sometimes you forget about human rights because of ethnic rights."

Last night, Mr Mote said: "I think the comments... reflect the inexperience and lack of political nous of the young man concerned. I have twice given him the opportunity to make a statement and he has rejected the opportunity to do so."

The disagreement on the far right could damage the fledgling group because rival MEPs are seeking to strip it of its right to exist as a formal grouping because it lacks a cohesive programme. A grouping must be made up of at least 20 MEPs from six countries, and have shared policies, before it is approved.

ITS has been constituted with the help of MEPs from Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU this month, and it emerged yesterday that the far-right MEPs could gain about €1.3m (£860,000) a year from the public purse.

The constitutional affairs committee, however, has been asked to consider stripping ITS of its status because it does not have a consistent programme. The far-right MEPs promised to fight back. Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito Mussolini, and a group member, argued that ITS has "far more consistency than many others".

The group's MEPs lashed out at the coverage in yesterday's Independent, a copy of which they produced at yesterday's press conference, and which was described by M. Gollnisch as "unworthy of comment".

Several prominent MEPs said they would seek to stop the far-right grouping from gaining the vice-chairmanship of a European parliamentary committee to which they would normally be entitled. Usually these posts are divided up under the D'Hondt system, which allocates positions according to the size of groupings. However, such appointments still need to be approved in a vote which is normally a formality. In this case, socialist and Green MEPs pledged to break the normal conventions.