The Reconquête! party of controversial far-right French politician Éric Zemmour has joined the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.
The move is set to give the ECR faction a small boost ahead of June's EU elections, where the Eurosceptic formation is set to make significant gains amid a projected leap in support for right-wing parties.
Reconquête polls at between 5% and 7% of the estimated vote in France, which could see it gaining six seats in the European Parliament after June's ballot.
The party was previously allied to the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group, which hosts the likes of Italy's Lega, Alternative for Germany (AfD), as well as its French competitor Rassemblement National.
MEP Nicolas Bay, Reconquête's only EU lawmaker who defected from Rassemblement National in 2022, will now join the ECR.
ECR is a political home to prominent forces like Poland's Law and Justice (PiS), Spain's Vox, Sweden Democrats and Italy's Brothers of Italy, whose leader, Giorgia Meloni, serves as president of the pan-European party.
While welcoming Reconquête to his group, ECR's co-chair Nicola Procaccini said Zemmour's party had "difficulty finding common points" with its German partner AfD in the ID group, according to ANSA news agency.
Fierce protests have spread over Germany in recent weeks after reports emerged that senior AfD figures had met with hardliners to discuss the possible mass deportations of people of foreign origin from Germany.
Zemmour is known for his hardline anti-immigration and anti-Islam views. A French court previously found him guilty of hate speech for comments he made about unaccompanied child migrants. Whilst campaigning in France's 2022 presidential election, he propagated the far-right conspiracist theory of the great replacement.
"Our MEPs will therefore sit alongside our allies, whose ideas are gaining momentum across the continent," Zemmour said on social platform X. "The more MEPs we have, the stronger the right will be in the European Parliament."
Reconquête co-chair Marion Maréchal, who joined after abandoning her aunt Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, will lead the party in the European elections. She took to X to welcome the news, vowing to defend "the identity of nations and our civilization in the face of immigration and Islamization," and preserve "our values in the wake of wokeism."
The move was fiercely criticised by the newly elected leader of the parliament's liberal Renew Europe group, Valérie Hayer of Emmanuel Macron's Renaissance party, who suggested the ECR group had crossed a "red line."
It comes amid mounting speculation that ECR is looking to bolster its membership ahead of June's crunch ballot. Studies suggest the final shape of the parliament could be swayed depending on parties that are yet to choose their factions.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party is also rumoured to be mulling joining Meloni's party, a move which could boost ECR's seat number by 14.
Fidesz quit the centre-right European People's Party, currently the parliament's biggest group, in 2021 and has since then been non-attached.