Letter: Factions in the European Parliament

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The Independent Online
Sir: In Andrew Marshall's report on the first session of the new European Parliament ('New MEPs enter the den of disunity', 20 July), there is a phrase that could mislead. Mr Marshall says of the European Liberal, Democratic and Reform (ELDR) Group:

It also includes the Italian Northern League, members of the Italian government, along with the neo-Fascist-led National Alliance.

The ELDR Group has absolutely no connection with the National Alliance, and would unanimously refuse to do so. The Italian government unfortunately has, but the Northern League has made absolutely clear in Italy its opposition to fascism.

The Northern League MEPs became associate Members of the ELDR Group only after publicly signing a declaration which says, inter alia,

Condemns with the greatest determination any form of xenophobia and racism and also any attitude liable to be construed, even indirectly, as supporting xenophobic and racist attitudes;

Expresses its deep concern at the signs of the recrudescence of neo-fascism and of anti-semitism which are emerging today in Europe.

There cannot therefore be the slightest doubt about the ELDR Group's position.

May I plead with your correspondents not always to accept the cliche that the important division in the European Parliament is between left and right? While on some economic issues that may still be realistic, it is utterly misleading on many questions. For example, the ELDR Group, supported by the Greens and the European Radical Alliance, is pressing the Council of Ministers to provide economic aid to Macedonia, which is suffering so much from the blockade unilaterally imposed by the Greek Socialist Government. Unfortunately, the large majority of both the Socialists and the PPE (to which the British Conservatives belong) continue to vote in favour of the European Union doing nothing.

Above all, as the European Union approaches the Intergovernmental Conference of 1996, the key question will be who is in favour of a united Europe of a federal type and who is in favour of merely a loose association of national states. That this is much more important than largely obsolete questions of left and right is shown by the fact that two anti- Maastricht Danish Communists sit in the Nations of Europe Group, led by no less a capitalist than Sir James Goldsmith.

It is also demonstrated by the fact that the British Labour MEPs, belatedly converted to the European cause, today voted, with the great majority of the ELDR Group, against the imposition of Jacques Santer as President of the European Commission as a result of John Major's veto in Corfu.

Yours truly,

GRAHAM WATSON

MEP for Somerset and

Devon North (Lib Dem)

European Parliament

Strasbourg

21 July

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