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Europe

MEPs Consider new Centrist Political Group

As the European Parliament comes to terms with the results of the elections, politicians are working behind the scenes towards making a new centrist pro-European group.

As yet, all doors are still open - but the three main parties that it could concern - the centre-right EPP, the socialists and the liberals - will start consulting at a high-level to see which parties could eventually come together. At stake is the balance of power in the European Parliament. As it stands, the center-right group is leading with 274 seats, the socialists with 198 while the liberals have 64. Liberal leader Graham Watson believes that his group will still hold the "pivotal role" between the two bigger groups. But how this will pan out is still not clear. Speaking in Brussels, Watson said he would have meetings in the coming days with both Romano Prodi, the figurehead of the new Italian pro-European Olive tree coalition, and Francois Bayrou, the head of the centrist UDF. "I am looking not just for numbers and technical alliances but for a group which has a political program as its base", said the Liberal leader. Currently, some elements of the Olive Tree sit with the centre-right as does all of the UDF - which leaves the EPP in an interesting position. Already under fire from within its own ranks and from other groups for sheltering diverse parties under its very broad political umbrella, the EPP could find itself deserted by its core federalists and left with a strong euroskeptic element with the UK Conservatives as well as the euroskeptic Czech party, the ODS. (EUobserver.com)

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