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    N-VA opts for conservative group in European Parliament

    © Pieter-Jan-Vanstockstraeten/Wikimedia

    More than three weeks after the European elections, the Flemish nationalist party N-VA has selected the group to which it will belong for the five-year legislature – and nothing changes.

    The N-VA will join up with the ECR group of European conservatives and reformists, after a vote in the party’s steering committee of 129 for and three against, with seven abstentions.

    The ECR group is the third-largest in the parliament, formed in 2009, with the aims, according to the group’s website, “to focus their efforts on decentralisation, connecting people and business, promoting open, fair and free trade, and fostering a safe & secure Europe, among many other achievements”.

    N-VA was part of the ECR group before the elections, joining in 2014 after party chairman Bart De Wever decided his party’s politics were in line with the British Conservatives, who formed part of the group.

    Now, however, the Conservatives are leaving as soon as Brexit takes place, which will reduce the group’s numbers and its influence. It also leaves behind two parties whose proximity is less appealing to De Wever: the Dutch Forum for Democracy, supporters of a Dutch version of Brexit; and Vox, a far-right Spanish unitarian party opposed to any movement towards Catalan independence, an uncomfortable position for N-VA, which has keenly supported the Catalan movement.

    The vote of the steering committee was overwhelming, and the party’s concerns appear to have subsided for now. “The ECR is a very diverse group which guarantees its members the greatest possible freedom: freedom of voting and communication,” N-VA said in a statement. “That allows us as N-VA to continue to steer our own course, and to present our own political point of view.”

    N-VA will have three members in the new parliament: former minister-president Geert Bourgeois (photo), former federal finance minister Johan Van Overtveldt and women’s rights activist Assita Kanko. Former MEP Mark Demesmaeker was not elected, but has been co-opted by the party as a senator sitting for the Flemish region. N-VA policy is to work for a scrapping of the Senate.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times