Italian PM Giorgia Meloni, pictured here with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, heads the ECR group in the European Parliament (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


Conservative ECR group on brink of split amid European Parliament turmoil

The Polish ECR delegation, comprising 20 Euro MPs from the PiS party, is considering leaving ECR for the Patriots and could take MEPs from other countries with it.


Members of the European Parliament’s European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group failed to elect key leadership roles on July 3 amid reports that the group could split.

ECR decision-makers, led by Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party, met in the parliament’s Brussels building but could only manage to elect half the roles foreseen, including members of the ‘bureau’ or group management board.

The meeting, which was connected remotely to Italy via video conference so that ECR members attending a gathering in Sicily could attend, comes ahead of the July 8 foundation or ‘constituency’ meeting of the new, rival Patriots group announced by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and allies.

The Polish ECR delegation, comprising 20 Euro MPs from the PiS party, is considering leaving ECR for the Patriots and could take MEPs from other countries with it.

The main cleavage is said to be the desire of some in the ECR, which is led by Meloni, to co-operate with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“According to my count the ECR group is split down the middle,” a source who attended the meeting told Brussels Signal.

“There are around 44 [members] who want to cooperate with the EPP and 40 who are prepared to leave to join the sovereigntists group.”

The Polish delegation is itself said to be split, with some arguing that remaining in ECR is preferable in the run-up to the Polish presidential elections next year. Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s former prime minister, is considering a run for the presidency. “It is Morawiecki and the leaders around him who will decide [on staying in ECR or leaving]”, said the ECR source. “Some say it wouldn’t look good in the run-up to the presidential election to be seen moving to a so-called ‘far-right’ group, others say: What’s the point of staying the ECR, backing von der Leyen and getting eaten up by the EPP?”

A deal between the Patriot group leaders and the Marine Le Pen-led Rassemblement National is said to have been done in principle. The Patriots’ constituency meeting is understood to have been postponed to July 8 so that it does not clash with the second round of the French elections. The group would then effectively be led by Le Pen and her 30 MEPs, the largest faction. It would become one of the parliament’s largest groups.

Many in the European Parliament, and the Right in particular, are holding their collective breath for the election outcome in France. A victory for Le Pen’s party would, one source said, lift Conservatives above the Council of Ministers ‘blocking minority’ threshold, a combination of votes and population size. “If Le Pen wins and we get a blocking majority in the Council, that is a huge tectonic shift,” one MEP told this website. “That would mean the end of the Green Deal and the Migration Pact”.

Whereas RN is expected to come first, uncertainty surrounds the intentions of the French leadership should they fall short of an absolute majority in the French assembly. ‘Le Pen and [Rassemblement National] leader Jordan Bardella have been saying contradictory things,” the source pointed out. “Bardella says he will only be PM with an absolute majority, but Le Pen has been talking about a coalition.”

Meanwhile, the 15 MEPs from the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party are currently without a home though list leader Max Krah is said to be assembling a new group. It is unclear if this alliance has the required number of nationalities — seven — to form a parliament group.