Far Right Is Left Out at E.U.'s Assembly
STRASBOURG — It was hardly the ideal start for a career
in the European Parliament. Traveling to his first appearance
in Strasbourg this week,
Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right British National Party,
found himself by the side of the highway explaining to
the French police why his car had broken the speed limit.
"I wasn't driving," Mr. Griffin said Tuesday in describing
his encounter with the French authorities.
He added that the car was doing only "about 10 over the limit."
All in all, it was not a great debut for Europe's far right,
whose arrival here failed to generate the anticipated pyrotechnics.
Newly elected members from extremist parties found themselves
with no speaking slot when the Parliament elected
Jerzy Buzek, a former Polish prime minister, as president.
They will have a chance to speak soon, but
the B.N.P. and other far right parties
will not control any of the assembly's influential committees.
There was much attention paid last month
when extremist parties made gains in the European Union
elections, a success that reflected widespread disenchantment
with the traditional parties.
But though Parliament was braced for
publicity-seeking tactics Tuesday,
the far right parties made a minimal impact.
One member from the Hungarian party Jobbik
was seen in paramilitary fatigues, and another
wore traditional dress.
But both were overshadowed by the arrival of
a center-right Czech member who had cycled
from Prague to Strasbourg and
appeared in the chamber in his cycling shirt and shorts.
Far-right members from the Netherlands, Austria and
Bulgaria were low key, and the B.N.P., which is trying
to shed its image for menacing street politics,
sought to portray itself as a mainstream political party.
The B.N.P. won its first representation in the European Parliament
last month. Mr. Griffin, one of the two elected, complained
about being denied access to the same briefing and
information that other British members get.
"I'm disappointed but not surprised," he said.
"We are second-class citizens.
It's unfortunate to be in this position, but I'm not surprised."
British officials said they give the B.N.P. members
standard briefings and other documents on request
but are not engaging proactively with them.
Unlike other British members, the two representatives
from the B.N.P. have not been invited
to a reception Wednesday hosted by
Britain's minister for Europe, Glenys Kinnock.
The far right also found itself on the outside when it came
to forming transnational groups with common ideological outlooks.
Such groups get more financing from the Parliament and
also get to head the most influential committees.
But the far right failed to find common cause
with enough other parties to form a group.
"They can start a dispute or create a scandal," said Dirk Sterckx,
a Liberal Democrat member from Belgium,
"if they publish material with money from the Parliament.
They can use the Parliament as a way to attract attention.
"But if you are a party like the B.N.P. or the Vlaams Belang
in Belgium, you don't play a role on policy here
on immigration, the accession of Turkey to the E.U.,
or human rights and civil liberties."
The composition of the new European Parliament underlines
a shift to the right after the failure of the center-left
to mount an effective challenge
to most European center-right governments.
Britain's Conservative Party, which left
the Parliament's main center-right grouping,
formed another 55-strong bloc with the Czech party O.D.S.
and the Polish party Law and Justice.
But strains within the group emerged immediately
when a Conservative member, Edward McMillan-Scott,
was suspended from the party organization
for running against another member of the group
for a vice-presidential position within the European Parliament.
A grouping that includes the U.K. Independence Party,
which wants to take Britain out of the European Union.,
and the Northern League in Italy now
numbers 30 members as opposed to the 22
in the U.K.I.P.'s group last time.
"If there is a larger representation of Euroskeptics
in the European Parliament,
" Mr. Buzek said, "this is a signal that our message
to the population of the continent was not clear enough."The Parliament should, he added, "demonstrate
to them what integration is about and how hard
their lives would be without this integration."
By STEPHEN CASTLE
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