Far-right group in EU parliament doubles in strength

Brussels (AFP) –


The European Parliament's nationalist group will double in strength to 73 deputies in the new 751-seat assembly after last month's elections, MEPs said Thursday.

The Identity and Democracy Party, formerly known as the Europe of Nations and Freedom Party, becomes the assembly's fifth biggest bloc, immediately after the Greens.

"This group is from now on the first nationalist force in the European Parliament," Marine Le Pen, head of the French National Rally (RN), told a news conference in Brussels.

The surge in seats comes after populists and eurosceptics made inroads at last month's European elections, but without the breakthrough feared by the political establishment.

Thierry Marini, an RN member elected last month, tweeted that the newly named ID now numbers 73 deputies, up from 36 in the outgoing assembly, from nine countries.

The bloc -- which also includes Italy's anti-immigrant League, Belgium's Vlaams Belang and Austria's FPOe -- will join the new parliament that takes up work on July 2.

The bloc did not attract the support of the 29 elected members of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.

Ahead of ID are the European People's Party (179 seats), the Socialists and Democrats (153 seats), Renew Europe, which includes supporters of French President Emmanuel Macron, (106 seats) and the Greens (75 seats).

The ID could come before the Greens in a redistribution of seats after Britain leaves the bloc, with the exit date set no later than October 31.

The nationalist group stands for the sovereignty of European countries while favouring cooperation among them.

It rejects any policy to transfer national sovereignty to supranational bodies, such as those of the European Union.