Far-right groups from France and Hungary to lead a new political force in the European Parliament

BRUSSELS (AP) — Far-right parties from 12 countries, including France’s National Rally and Hungary’s ruling Fidesz, announced on Monday that they have joined together to form a new bloc in the European Parliament and plan to become a major political force.

The European Parliament moved perceptibly to the right following Europe-wide elections a month ago as many voters abandoned the business-friendly liberals and environmentalist Greens. Mainstream center-right and center-left groups still hold the majority though.

The new bloc, dubbed Patriots for Europe, is made up of 84 EU lawmakers and will be led by Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old protégé of Marine Le Pen. Kinga Gál, from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, will be first vice president.

Right-wing parties from Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are also involved. Forming a group brings parties more influence, money and the possibility of coveted posts on parliamentary committees.

Italy’s far-right League party has signed up, as has the Party for Freedom of anti-immigration Dutch leader Geert Wilders. Spain’s far-right Vox party joined too after defecting from the nationalist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) bloc of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Bardella said the Patriots “represent hope for the tens of millions of citizens in the European nations who value their identity, their sovereignty and their freedom.” He vowed the group would work “to retake our institutions and reorient policies to serve our nations and peoples.”

At a news conference, senior party officials laid out a vision of a group that opposes power being centralized in Brussels – home to the EU’s main institutions – or having “to suffer the diktats of the European Commission,” the EU’s powerful executive branch.

Gál said voters want Europe’s borders better protected from migrants, and that citizens “are in favor of European cooperation, but not of an EU that acts beyond its competences and punishes member states for carrying out their own policies.”

The Patriots for Europe claims to now be the third largest political group in the parliament, although Meloni’s ECR also has 84 seats in the 720-seat assembly. The conservative European People’s Party is the biggest, with 188 seats, followed by the Socialists and Democrats with 136.

The question remains as to whether mainstream parties will prevent the new group from taking up important posts by refusing to endorse its candidates. It’s a tactic they employed last time around against the National Rally when it was part of the far-right Identity and Democracy group.

In a possible sign of things to come, the liberal Renew group posted on X that these “are ‘patriots’ in name only. The far-right have rebranded. But their mission is the same, to destroy European values.” Renew said “Europe’s future will be crafted, by us, from the political center!”

Bardella ally Jean-Paul Garraud branded the blocking tactics by mainstream parties as “totally anti-democratic." He told reporters that the Patriots for Europe must be given the “number of posts that corresponds to the millions of voters that we represent.”