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With the January 1 addition of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union—bringing several right-wing politicians to the European Parliament—a new parliamentary group was born.
The Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty group (ITS) was established with 20 Parliament members (MEPs), the minimum number necessary to receive official recognition in the European lawmaking body. This status—granted at a plenary session in the EU’s alternate capital of Strasbourg, France—entitles ITS to EU funding as well as speaking time before the Parliament and two committee slots.
ITS is led by Bruno Gollnisch, deputy head of France’s National Front. Italy’s Alessandra Mussolini (Benito Mussolini’s granddaughter) is also aboard, as is the UK’s vocal anti-EU agitator Ashley Mote. Other members are from Austria and Belgium.
Though the diverse and opinionated members of this group may struggle to find acceptable compromises within its ranks, they do seem to agree on several high-profile issues:
Limiting immigration to member states
Restricting Brussels’ power over individual nations within the Union
Opposing expansion of the EU, especially Turkey’s bid for membership
Resisting efforts to revive the Union’s gridlocked constitution—a high priority for the current EU President, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Responding to charges of extremism, fascism and xenophobia, Mr. Gollnisch deftly described the group’s goals as upholding “Christian values, the family and European civilization” (CNN).
With only 20 MEPs among a total of 785, the group has been dismissed by some as a means to garner publicity, with zero chance of influencing policy. But its formation did predictably provoke outrage, with the head of the parliament’s Social Democrat group, Germany’s Martin Schulz, calling for his colleagues to shun the controversial faction.
Less than two weeks after the arrival of ITS, Dr. Merkel set forth an initiative to crack down on right-wing extremism across the continent. Proposed measures include increased collaboration between Europe’s police forces and minimum sentences for offenses such as inciting racially-motivated violence, displaying the Nazi swastika or denying the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gollnisch was fined €5,000 by a French court for questioning the death toll and the existence of gas chambers in German concentration camps during World War II.