Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bulgaria and Romania help far right raise profile in EU Parliament

By Matthew Brunwasser
Published: January 14, 2007

SOFIA: The arrival of Romania and Bulgaria has lent an unexpected twist to the proceedings of the European Parliament, which is expected when it convenes Monday to include a new grouping of extreme rightists intent on undermining the European Union from within.

This is no empty prospect: In the 785- member Parliament, legislators previously bereft of political party backing will now enjoy speaking rights, committee positions and about €1 million, or $1.3 million, in yearly funding. Under parliamentary rules, such rights are accorded to political groupings of at least 20 deputies from six countries.

The far right is now reaching that level, courtesy of five members of the Greater Romania Party, a nationalist group founded by Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the former court poet of Nicolae Ceausescu and an unapologetic racist and chauvinist, and a lone deputy from Bulgaria's anti-Roma, anti-Turk Ataka Party. They are among the 35 deputies from Romania and the 18 from Bulgaria who are entering the Parliament following their countries' accession to the EU on Jan. 1.

Gollnisch said that the new group would focus on "defending Christian values, the family and European civilization." It will oppose immigration, Turkish accession to the EU and the passage of a European constitution."


For years, the formation of an EU parliamentary bloc had been a goal of far- right deputies not linked to a specific political group in the European Parliment. Ironically, many of the deputies making up the group had opposed opening the EU to poor East European countries like Romania and Bulgaria.

Krasimir Kunev, president of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, an international human rights organization, expressed concern that the new parliamentary group would fan xenophobic feelings in Europe.

"I'm concerned that Islamophobia, which is widespread in Europe, will increase," he said. And while the funding may not be much for the Western parties, he said, it could be enough to help East European parties "in a significant way."

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