Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts, co-President of the Green Group. EPA/MATHIEU CUGNOT


Sleeping with the enemy? Green MEP chief not averse to siding with hard-right against EU austerity

The Greens in the assembly will not automatically align themselves in opposition to the hard-right Identity and Democracy group, said Philippe Lamberts


A leading Green MEP says he is not averse to fighting alongside the “far-right” against what he fears will be a “disastrous” return of European Union austerity.

Talking on the sidelines of a meeting in the European Parliament, Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian co-president of the Greens Group, said the chief danger he saw was the EU’s fiscal reform package, which seeks to rein in debt and spending across the bloc. In the fight against austerity, all allies were welcome, he said.

“I believe the European Union is walking into a major, major, major policy blunder,” he told journalists on January 11. The economic record post-2010 proved austerity does not work, he said.

The Council of Ministers, representing national governments, has agreed to update the spending rules that countries in the EU must follow. The reform aims to ensure Member States balance budgets and reduce debt over time.

Negotiations on the final wording are ongoing with the European Parliament, where MEPs are soon set to vote.

When asked if he was willing to work with hard-right parties that also opposed the fiscal reform package, Lamberts told Brussels Signal: “As a rule I never let myself nor the Greens be influenced either way by the far-right.

“Some say we cannot be on the same side of the argument as the far-right, which basically [means] they will define their opposition, i.e. ‘if they say this, then we say that’, and vice versa.”

The assembly’s hard-right Identity and Democracy Group had already voted against the package with the Green Group, he pointed out.

“On this file, yes, ID voted against, like us … They do what they think is right, we do what we think is right.”

A Spanish journalist asked if Lamberts’ proposals that the EU spend more by issuing more debt were realistic. The perceived rightward drift in EU politics could herald clampdown on government spending, some say.

“I think the premise is false, that if you get more far-right, you get stricter [financial] rules. This is bullshit,” Lamberts said.

He had heard such reasoning “used by an Italian Social Democrat MEP”, he said. The Italian told Lamberts: “Well Philippe… you know it’s going to get worse, so let’s make a bad deal now, in order not to have a worse deal a few years from now.”

Lamberts argued that a return to austerity would be precisely what would fuel the rise of the populism.

“If you reinstate austerity, who will benefit … the Left parties? No, of course not! The far-right!

“So this is a self-fulfilling argument … ‘let’s put backings in place, [an] austerity that will fuel the far-right, but at least it’s going to be our austerity and not theirs’. … It’s completely flawed as a reason, completely flawed.

“No, I don’t buy this.”