The Renew Group’s new president has denied any internal splits with its Dutch delegation in the European Parliament.
That comes as French MEP Valérie Hayer was elected on January 25 to the lead the centrist, pro-EU and Liberal group into the 2024 Parliament elections.
Rumours circulated that Dutch MEP Milak Azmani, who served as interim president of Renew, had wanted the job full-time but was denied because his party is currently in coalition talks with Dutch national-populist Geert Wilders.
As a result, Azmani did not declare his candidacy, apparently in order to maintain a unified front for Renew.
Speaking to Brussels Signal, one source said that he had strong support within Renew but that a combination of doubts among leaders – and orders from Paris – he decided against.
Hayer denied any splits with the Dutch delegation.
Ahead of the European elections, the Renew Group is running on a ticket of combating the rise of populism and the hard-right.
Hayer said one of her two main priorities was to “protect our fundamental values”.
“As you know, these fundamental values are under threat from the far-right”, she added.
Despite this resolve, Azmani’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (PVV) is currently in long-winded negotiations with Wilders’ national-populist Party for Freedom (PVV).
Renew’s crusade against the rising Right is also generating tensions with other delegations in the group.
The Czech ANO party has been noted for its increasing drift towards the Right. Its leader, former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, has previously spoken at Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Conservative conference in Budapest.
Asked what she would do about the growing divisions with the Czechs, Hayer declined to comment, only telling Brussels Signal: “The Czech delegation is an important delegation in the Renew Group.”
As previously reported, the ALDE party, Renew’s umbrella organisation outside the Parliament, had sent a fact-finding mission to Prague to evaluate the ANO party’s Liberal credentials.
Asked about the results of the investigation, an ALDE spokesperson insisted that the results were “confidential”.
A political investigation by the European Parliament-based Renew Europe Group is to be undertaken to evaluate the ‘Liberal’ credentials of the Czech ANO party. https://t.co/xZoUElrOWG
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) July 7, 2023
Azmani, now back in the role of vice-president, still appeared determined to put on a show of unity.
Yet the “great pride and honour” with which he welcomed Hayer seemed strained, especially as he spoke of how she would “lead”, staring hard at her, the Renew Group to the polling booths in July.
Hayer was also asked whether there was “too much French influence” over Renew, which is considered by some to be a political extension of French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party,
“Let me say we all work autonomously vis-a-vis our respective national capitals,” Hayer insisted.
Until January 11, Renew was led by the head of the Renaissance party Stéphane Séjourné. He left his position and his seat in the Parliament to join Macron’s Government in Paris, where he has been appointed foreign minister.