The Belgian centre-right N-VA Party, the New Flemish Alliance, is publicly mulling a switch of allegiance in the European Parliament.
The party, which currently has three Euro MPs, Geert Bourgeois, Johan Van Overtveldt and Assita Kank, is signalling it does not feel “at home” with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) any more.
Right-wingers are predicted to do well in this year’s European Parliament elections, with a combination of the ECR and ID (Identity and Democracy) Group possibly becoming the second-largest power according to recent polls.
The N-VA nevertheless seems set to switch loyalties.
Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon raised the possibility on the sidelines of a speech to European Union journalists in Antwerp, as reported by news outlet Belga.
“We no longer feel completely at home with the ECR,” he said. “The British Conservatives were the reason we joined at the time but they are no longer with us.”
Since the British delegation left, the ECR has been dominated by the Polish PiS Party, which is far more Conservative than N-VA.
Where will they go? The N-VA might help maintain the position of the European People’s Party (EPP) as the biggest group. Alternatively, given that the Flemish centre-right party is somewhat Liberal, joining Renew Europe is also an option, maybe keeping that group as third largest, ahead of the ID.
Its Belgian counterparts in these groups may not approve, in particular the Euro-federalists of Guy Verhofstadt’s Open Flemish Liberals.
Joining the EPP might also be opposed by the Belgian Christian Democrats, whose members could point out how the N-VA party has seemed to turn its back on farmers in the fight against emissions.
Other parties in the ECR group include Spain’s Vox, Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and the Sweden Democrats, all of which are much more supportive of right-wing doctrines.
Elsewhere, Jambon said he hoped Europe’s regions would be able to play a larger role, arguing regional autonomy is still not fully implemented despite a European Treaty that requires it.
He also expressed his discontent over the temporary European state aid structure, which he claimed favours larger Member States like France and Germany.
“Our response to international competition should not be intra-European competitiveness,” he said.
On social media X, the party’s European delegation sought to downplay the statements. It said that Jambon had said nothing new and has a “constructive way of cooperating within the ECR”.
“We live now in a pre-election period where rumors surface every day,” it concluded.
Minister President @JanJambon said nothing new. Everybody knows that we joined the @ecrgroup because of our close relationship with the British Conservatives and we feel uncomfortable with their departure.
— N-VA EuroParlement (@NVA_EU) January 9, 2024