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European right-wing populists join forces to rally against EU's direction

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By Sandor Zsiros
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European right-wing populists join forces to rally against EU's direction
Copyright  Luca Bruno/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Right-wing populist parties in Europe have made a huge step towards unifying themselves after 16 right-wing populist parties from 14 countries issued a joint statement calling for a European Union based on sovereign member states instead of a federal bloc, as they say, is currently envisaged.

The main forces behind the declaration are the Polish ruling party, Law and Justice, Viktor Orbán's Fidesz, Marine Le Pen's National Rally, with Matteo Salvini's Lega and Georgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy also present. However, Germany's nationalist party Alternative for Germany is missing from the "gathering of European patriots".

Gerolf Annemans, an MEP from the Belgian-Flemish right-wing populist party included in the group, told Euronews that the idea behind the movement is to take the EU in a different direction.

"We think that European cooperation can be useful and in some cases necessary, but only on the basis of free nations that cooperate together in a free way," Annemans said.

"So, not what the European Union has become, a judicial system integrated with a severe punishing system and one nation-state above all the others. That is not the European cooperation that we want. We want an alternative and we think that European cooperation deserves a better union."

The formation of a new political group in the European Parliament could eventually be on the table, as the Belgian nationalist explains.

"Well, of course, this could be the aim, but that is not on the agenda now - that is not the most urgent thing. The most urgent thing is that the Conference on the Future of Europe needs other answers for the design of European Cooperation and that we have to unify our efforts. The group is something for later and it's more complicated," Annemans said on Monday.

The possibility of a new populist right-wing force is not an immediate risk for the current Brussels establishment, according to VoteWatch Europe analyst Doru Frantescu, as the number of their MEPs will remain the same. But he says in the long term, it could eventually shape decision-making in the EU.

"It is an important signal that shows that across the continent there is a certain concentration of dissatisfaction with certain policies of the European Union. We have to take into consideration that these parties do disagree on many issues, but where they agree, is on cultural issues - the identitarian issues - them being dissatisfied with what they perceive as the policies of the EU that affect family values, the identitarian composition of their countries," Frantescu told Euronews.

"On the other hand, we should not overestimate the importance of this movement, because in practical terms this does not change too much the balance of power in current European politics."

Frantescu added that if their parties manage to remain a coherent force by the time of the 2024 European elections, they could have a chance of positioning themselves as the main opposition force in the next European Parliament.