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Europe

EU Parliament Raises Bar for Extremist Parties

The European Parliament has tightened the rules on forming political groups in the assembly. Critics say the move is a blow to democracy as it will reduce political diversity.

Flags outside European Parliament building, Strasbourg, France

Smaller parties now have less of a chance to form in the European Parliament

Members voted on Wednesday, July 9, to raise the minimum number of deputies needed to form a political group from 20 members from a minimum of six member states to at least 25 members, representing seven states.

According to the European Parliament's system, MEPs must join trans-national Groups in order to qualify for campaign finance, move amendments and propose debates.

The move was approved by 481 lawmakers, with a further 203 voting against and 26 abstaining from the vote.

Deputies in the European Parliament will now need wider support before being able to form a political grouping.

From small to large

Currently, there are seven political groups in parliament and 30 unaffiliated lawmakers.

The new rules will directly affect both the euroskeptic Independence/Democracy Group, which has 22 MEPs, and the rightist Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN) group, which fails to meet the member state threshold.

On the left, meanwhile, the communist European United Left party, has 41 lawmakers from 14 countries, while the Greens have 43 legislators from 14 countries.

The three biggest parties in the parliament are the conservative European People's Party with 288 deputies from all 27 EU countries; the Socialists with 217 from 25 countries; and the liberals with 100 from 22 states.

Safety measure

According to Socialist MEP Richard Corbett, the parliament has "one of the lowest thresholds that exist for allowing the constitution of a political group."

"Just 2.5 percent of our membership can create a political group," he said.

But the new rules came under fire from smaller groups and were also opposed by the third biggest political group in the parliament, the Liberals, who called it "detrimental" to parliamentary democracy and efficiency.

Supporters of the report, meanwhile, argue that the new rules will make it harder for the far-right to form a political group.

Last year, a gathering of far right MEPs, including anti-immigrant, hard-line nationalist as well as Holocaust-denying deputies, managed to form the Identity, Sovereignty and Tradition group -- only for it collapse a few months later after its members started insulting each other.

Many deputies were outraged that the group had been able to form in the first place.

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