Success and Fragmentation
The parties I am studying in detail are those classified as Populist Radical Right (PRR) that are represented at European Parliament level.
Although the first Parliament in 1979 saw four MEPs from Italy’s Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) and one from the Danish Fremskridtspartiet (PP), the PRR was not represented in a radical right grouping until the second Parliament. In 1979, the PP rejected radical right cooperation with MSI and instead joined the EDP political grouping.
Although the composition of the PRR has changed with some parties appearing for only one Parliament (in the case of Germany’s Republikaner (REP) and Italy’s Alternativa Sociale (AS)) and others remaining in significant numbers throughout the history of the EP (for example, Italy’s MSI until its dissolution into Alleanze Nazionale (AN) in 1995, and the subsequent merger of AN into Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party; or the French Front National (FN)), the PRR has consistently constituted a small minority within the Parliament.
The representation of PRR MEPs throughout each Parliament is set out in the graph below:
... and Fragmentation
While the number of PRR MEPs has remained at a fairly constant level (30 to 38) since 1989, the number of different PRR parties represented has nearly always increased from one Parliament to the next.
There were only two parties represented in 1979, but in the current Parliament there are 13 parties classified as PRR. Over the history of the EP, there have been 21 different PRR parties represented at one time or another.
This fragmentation of the PRR is set out in the graph below:
*Key: Fpd - Fremskridtspartiet, MSI - Movimento Sociale Italiano, EPEN - Ehtniki Politiki Enosis, FN - Front National (France), REP - Die Republikaner, LL/LN - Lega Lombarda/Lega Nord, VB - Vlaams Belang/Vlaams Blok, AN - Alleanza Nazionale, DFP - Dansk Folkeparti, FPÖ - Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, MS-FT - Movimento Sociale - Fiamma Tricolore, AS - Alternativa Sociale: Lista Mussolini, LAOS - Laikos Orthodoxos Synagermos - G. Karatzaferis, LPR - Liga Polskich Rodzin, NSA - Natsionalen sayuz 'Ataka', BNP - British National Party, Jobbik - Jobbik Magyarorszagert Mozgalom, PRM - Partidul Romania Mare, PVV - Partij voor de Vrijheid, PS - Perussuomalaiset, SNS - Slovenska Narodna Strana
Alliance and Animosity
There has been no attempt to create a PRR-specific grouping in the EP since the doomed venture of Identity, Tradition and Soveriegnty (ITS) which fully collapsed in 2007 following a verbal fracas between Italy’s Alessandra Mussolini and the Romanian contingent.
Although there can be many specific events that contribute to the collapse of co-operation, it is simply too difficult for national parties to co-operate internationally. Any cooperation between PRR parties stems from strategic necessity rather than an ideological basis, making cooperation in the form of EP party groupings, which are intended to negate national aims in order to be configured along ideological lines, incredibly difficult.
Beyond Western Europe
PRR parties in central and eastern Europe
It is worthwhile noting that previous literature on the PRR has been overwhelmingly focused on the parties of western Europe.
There has been a general agreement amongst scholars that western Europe has provided an arena, within which PRR parties have flourished. This may be, in part, due to the salience of fascism as a component of PRR parties and the prevalence of communism in central and eastern European countries. However, the nature of communism in these regions was not necessarily successful in either stamping out or preventing growth in PRR parties.
Generally speaking PRR parties have remained marginal in former communist European states, with Croatia and Solvakia proving the exceptions (NB: Croatia is not currently a member of the EU; however, the country is expected to join in 2013). PRR parties are more successful in countries where the communist regime was staunchly nationalistic (e.g. Poland) but, in general, their moderate success is similar to that of PRR parties in western Europe.
Currently, since the 2009 election, the PRR parties represented in the EP are gathered from across the EU and are no longer solely the preserve of western European countries.
The UK in the west has two PRR MEPs in the form of the British National Party (BNP), and Romania and Bulgaria in the east have representation through Partidul Romania Mare (PRM) and Natsionalen sayuz 'Ataka' (NSA) respectively. In addition, Finland in the north and Italy in the south both have PRR representation. While the influence of the PRR is not restricted to specific geographical areas, neither do these parties hail from only newer EU member states: three of the “Inner Six” European Community nations, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, have PRR representation.
In light of the modest successes seen by PRR parties in central and eastern Europe and the continuing expansion and growth of the European Union, it is necessary for us to consider the parties of newer EU member countries in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the workings of the PRR within the EP.
In addition, the issue of EU enlargement itself is of great importance to the PRR parties, who cannot agree on the extent of enlargement or the countries to be integrated into the Union.
Whilst the parties share common ground on issues such as national identity or immigration, although there are differences in the degree of extremism and the application of these ideological aims, there has been a failure among these parties to agree on whether the EU should exist at all, how it should be organised and the extent to which EU integration should be developed. For example, the soft eurosceptic Belgian party, Vlaams Belang (formerly Vlaams Blok) (VB) contrasts strongly with the French FN in its views on Europe, with Le Pen’s election manifesto proposing a referendum on France’s membership of the EU.
General objection to further enlargement is based either on religious or ethnic concerns, stemming from a view of Europe as the successor to Greek, Roman and Christian civilisations, and the proposed accession of Turkey to the EU is viewed very suspiciously.
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