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Europe’s hard-right to VDL: We won, let’s unite

Europe’s hard-right to VDL: We won, let’s unite

by host
Europe’s hard-right to VDL: We won, let’s unite

The right won the EU election. Ursula von der Leyen must respect that. 

As the EU’s top executive searches for European Parliament allies to back her for a second term, the hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group is arguing she has only one option: Ditch the left.

“The center-right won this election,” exclaimed Belgian MEP Assita Kanko, the ECR vice-chair, her arms triumphantly held aloft. 

It’s now the European Commission president’s duty, Kanko said, to unite the right, bringing together the ECR and von der Leyen’s center-right European People’s Party (EPP), which finished first in the recent ballot. 

“We cannot be a group that won the elections, that is now a huge group, and then not be included in basic negotiations,” Kanko argued, adding that she believes voters have delivered a mandate to put the ECR in power. “The EPP won big, the ECR won big, just respect that.”

As the numbers currently stand, von der Leyen could form a tenuous majority in the Parliament by linking together three centrist parties — her EPP, the centrist Renew and the center-left Socialists & Democrats. 

But most observers expect she will need to pull in more lawmakers from either the left or the right to cement her coalition. The Greens have been wooing von der Leyen openly, despite taking a drubbing in the election, pitching themselves as a pro-European partner. Now the ECR is getting in on the action, insisting it has more weight and greater legitimacy. 

“We have the potential to be bigger than Renew,” Kanko said.

Indeed, the centrist Renew took the biggest loss in the EU election, shedding 23 seats. The ECR, meanwhile, grew slightly to 73 seats, six short of Renew. Kanko teased that her group could welcome new MEPs to grow their ranks further, while failing to provide specifics. Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party will be sending 10 MEPs to Brussels and is not affiliated with any parliamentary group, making it an obvious target for the ECR.

“If I were Ursula von der Leyen, I would talk to us,” Kanko said.

“We need a center-right majority in this Parliament, and the ECR wants to be part of it,” she added. “We have been working very well with the EPP in the past few years and I think we can enhance that cooperation.”

What if von der Leyen doesn’t reach out? “A complete lack of respect,” Kanko said.

Kanko said she will back Maltese EPP lawmaker Roberta Metsola to remain president of the Parliament, but warned that the ECR’s support for von der Leyen is not guaranteed. 

“Ursula von der Leyen did some great work, but she needs to tell us what she’s going to do in the coming years and convince me to vote for her,” she said.

Kanko didn’t offer many specifics about what the ECR wants from von der Leyen, but name-checked some typical hard-right priorities — security, migration, purchasing power and revising parts of the Green Deal, the EU’s plan to reach climate neutrality by 2050.

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