Andrej Babiš announced his ANO party leaves Renew (Photo by Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images)


Blow for EU Liberals as Czech party leaves Parliament group over federalist push


In the close race to become the third-largest group in the European Parliament, the Liberal Renew Europe has suffered a major blow.

On June 21, Czech politician Andrej Babiš and his ANO movement, holding seven MEP seats, announced their departure.

ANO, a centrist populist political party from Czechia, withdrew its support citing what it called Renew’s leftward shift as the primary reason for the departure.

Babiš, the ANO leader, said the party would not be able to fulfil its programme within Renew.

“We went to the European elections saying that we would fight against illegal migration, that we wanted to repeal the ban on internal combustion engines and fundamentally change the Green Deal. Above all, we want the Czech Republic to remain a sovereign country,” he said.

“The negotiations so far have shown that this will not be possible in the Renew Europe faction, therefore we have decided to leave Renew.

“We will now look for partners in the European Parliament with whom we can promote our programme. We do not betray our voters,” Babiš said.

He said he felt Renew wanted to integrate the European Union as a federation, strengthening Brussels at the expense of the small and medium-sized Member States, eroding their identity and culture, abolishing the right of veto, and introducing transnational lists for the EP.

In a reaction to Brussels Signal, also shared on social media, Valérie Hayer, President of Renew, described the move as a “divorce that was long overdue”.

“ANO has chosen a populist path that is incompatible with our values and identity,” she said.

“Over the last month, their divergence from our values has increased exponentially, and we witnessed this with great concern.

“ANO’s unwillingness to continue its commitment to liberal values has led to today’s outcome. They have turned their back on our firm pro-European convictions and values,” she said.

“The departure of ANO reinforces our pro-European values and our unity. Renew Europe is even more united in our mission to promote our liberal values and deliver an ambitious programme for the Europe of tomorrow.”

With ANO’s departure, Renew loses seven seats and falls back to 74, nine behind the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), consolidating the ECR’s third spot.

Earlier, the five pan-European Volt MEPs, who were considering joining the Liberal group, said they wanted to stay with the Greens after all, letting their members decide the issue by June 23.

A source within Renew told Brussels Signal the group was still in negotiations with potential new members, with those discussions expected to conclude shortly.

On the Renew website, ANO was swiftly removed. On the afternoon of June 21, it stated: “There are no member parties in Czechia yet.”

The Belgian party, Les Engagés, which joined Renew on June 20, had not yet been added.

Regarding the future of his ANO Party, Babiš said: “ECR is certainly not a solution for us. Representatives of other Czech political parties have a big say in factions, and the ECR is certainly not our choice.

“We’ll see, maybe a new faction will emerge.”

ECR was co-founded by The Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which is now the second-biggest in the Czech Parliament. It is half the size of ANO but, in government, has the Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala in its ranks.

The struggle for seats by political groups in the European Parliament has unfolded as negotiations on Europe’s top-jobs are being held.

Despite a right-wing surge in the latest EP elections ending June 9, established parties are doing their best to keep Conservatives out and to share the roles among themselves.

European leaders have, until now, argued that the spoils should go to the three biggest EP groups, who also hold the majority.

That has dismayed Conservative Italian PM Girogia Meloni and her ECR, who want to see the demands of the European electorate – which they see as less progressivism and more Conservatism – translated into the new European Government.

In the previous European leadership team, Renew got the presidency of the European Council and six European Commissioners. ECR only bagged one Commissioner.