Nicola Procaccini will be co-chair of ECR the next legislature (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)


ECR avoids split as Poles and Italians decide to work together


European parliamentary group the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which appeared on the verge of disintegrating, has decided to stick together.

Fuelled by a turbulent meeting on the morning of July 3, some within the ECR — most notably a large part of the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) — seemed tempted by the new Patriots for Europe group, spearheaded by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn and de facto leader of France’s National Rally (RN) Marine Le Pen.

That could have proved painful for the ECR, which grew to 84 seats after the June 6-9 EP vote and is currently the third-largest parliamentary group, overtaking Renew. The Liberal group had already seen one of their members, ANO, switch to the Patriot for Europe alliance.

On the evening of July 3, following a second meeting, the ECR announced all members were staying after all.

“The ECR Group will be the platform that stands up for the interests of Europe’s citizens,” co-chairman Nicola Procaccini said.

“The European elections of 2024 showed that voters want a European Union as it was originally conceived, where Member States came together to achieve a few important things that they could not achieve alone.

“We will advocate for a Union that respects European founding values, such as the traditional family, alongside the principles that have historically shaped Europe and our identity, which are grounded in Hellenistic, Roman and Christian traditions,” she added.

An ECR insider told Brussels Signal the drama at the negotiating table might have been a way for the Poles to boost their negotiating strength.

The Italians are in a vulnerable position, having a very high debt and needing EU money.

Another source within the group indicated that the Poles were in fact split, with a significant chunk tempted by the Patriots for Europe. A small majority though, the source said, felt that remaining in ECR was preferable in the run-up to the Polish presidential elections next year.

Mateusz Morawiecki has his eyes on retaining the top job and he and his allies allegedly do not want to be seen moving too far to the Right.

A notable minority did prefer a shift further to the Right rather than “backing von der Leyen and getting eaten up by the EPP [European People’s Party]”, the source said.

Another ECR group member often associated with a possible switch, the Belgian N-VA party, decided to stay on also.

“We wanted the guarantee to be able to interpret our program and our positions with complete freedom and independence, and to have influence with the necessary political weight”, Johan Van Overtveldt, who led the ECR talks for his party, said in a statement.

In 2023, Van Overtveldt came out on top in the MEP influence index, which revealed the relative importance of every MEP, despite the ECR not being fully accepted by the ruling majority in the European Parliament.