James Crisp. Freelance journalist in Brussels.

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Lithuanians vow to stick by Farage and EFD

Stunt pilot and ex Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas wrote to Farage to say he was staying with the EFD. [Paksas campaign poster/Facebook]

Stunt pilot and ex Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas wrote to Farage to say he was staying with the EFD. [Paksas campaign poster/Facebook]

The leader of Lithuania’s Order and Justice Party has written to Nigel Farage, denying he will leave the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group to join Marine Le Pen’s alliance of far right parties in the new European Parliament.

Rolandas Paksas, an EFD vice-president, wrote, “Dear Nigel, if it were necessary, I would like to confirm my intention to continue sitting in the EFD group, with all the other information being only speculations and spin.”

The email, seen by EurActiv, was sent after reports on Tuesday night that the party’s two MEPs were joining the Le Pen faction (here). They would have followed Italy’s Lega Nord in defecting to the putative group, led by France’s National Front.

Paksas, an MEP since 2009, is a two-time Prime Minister of Lithuania, Mayor of Vilnius, and was President of Lithuania from 2003 to 2004. The stunt pilot became the first European head to state to be impeached in 2004 after it emerged he had granted citizenship to a major campaign donor.

A parliamentary group, which brings EU funding and other advantages such as influential committee posts for its members, must have at least 25 MEPs from seven different member states. Both the UKIP-led EFD and the far right parties are in negotiations with the pool of unattached parties and independent MEPs as they try to form their respective groups. Any alliance between the two has been ruled out by Farage.

Poland’s Kongres Nowej Prawicy (KNP) was also reported to be joining the far right alliance, which also includes the Netherlands’ Freedom Party, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and the Freedom Party of Austria.

The KNP is not affiliated to the EFD. With its support Le Pen would need just one more MEP from another member state to form a group, which would qualify for EU funding of about €22 million, excluding MEP salaries and expenses (see here).

As things stand, the EFD is the smallest group in the Parliament. The Finns Party and Danish People’s Party have left for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group (here).

It was announced today (12 June) that the Eurosceptic Alternativ ​für Deutschland would join the ECR, further reducing the pool of potential allies for Farage’s new group (here).​

Central to the ambitions and future influence of the EFD will be the support of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. Without their 17 MEPs, they face less funding and clout in the new parliament, as well as a scrabble for small delegations (here).

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