EFD, a right-wing Eurosceptic party is gaining ground, but has few clear policies aside from Euroscepticism. By Roisin Berghaus
Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) is a right-wing and highly Eurosceptic political fraction. The group was founded in 2009 and largely replaced the Independence/Democracy and Union for a Europe of Nations fractions that were dissolved that year. The political group consists of ten political parties. Th
e UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the Italian Northern League represent the largest political parties in the fraction, with eleven and nine seats respectively. The group has two co-chairs, Nigel Farage (UKIP) and Francesco Speroni (Northern League).
Notably, although the group is known for its strong Euroscepticism and tendencies toward far-right nationalism, it does not represent the interests of more pronounced nationalist and racist parties such as Marie Le Pen’s Front National (FN) or Geert Wilders’s Dutch Freedom Party (PVV). The group has also twice rejected applications from the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) to unite with them.
Identifying EFD’s policies is requires a large amount of guesswork, as this group will not publish a manifesto prior to the election. The party has not even held a campaign convention. However, a few common goals are elucidated on the group’s website:
The fraction is strongly opposed to further European integration, and, as they call it “the creation of a single centralised European superstate.” Their reasoning behind this stems from their conviction that “there is no such thing as a single European people.” Instead, they support an increasingly sovereign Member State model, where countries “co-operate” with each other yet retain control over their own internal and external policy.
The group is also in favour of treaty changes solely through the ratification through referendum by every Member State. This, they assert, will offer a solution to the democratic deficit currently seen in EU institutions.
As an extension of EFD’s rejection of greater European integration, the group does not have a parliamentary whip. This means that MEPs are free to vote how they please on motions arising in parliament.
EFD believes that Member States should “protect their borders.” This can clearly be interpreted as a rejection of the Schengen Zone and possibly of the four freedoms guaranteed in the Lisbon Treaty, though the group’s position on the eurozone is unclear.
The group advocates that Member States should be free to maintain their unique “historical, traditional, religious and cultural values.” At the same time, the group claims to be against “xenophobia, anti-Semitism and any other form of discrimination.” This may present the group with a challenge on how to respond to Member State policies that are openly discriminatory yet allegedly a reflection of traditional or cultural values. Perhaps in an expression of this commitment against racism, though, the party has distanced itself from more extremist nationalist parties from countries such as France and Hungary.
Prospects in the EP Election
Recent reports have suggested that EFD will gain seats, especially in the UK, in the upcoming election. A recent YouGov poll showed them winning as much as 31 percent of the British popular vote. At the same time, though, EFP might be under threat. A potential rival group consisting of more openly nationalist parties such as the FN, the PVV, the FPÖ, the Flemish Vlaams Belang (VB), the Swedish Democrats, and even the Italian Northern League may form instead.
Though the future of EFD is, at the moment, uncertain, it nevertheless appears that extremist, anti-EU sentiment may gain a stronghold in two weeks. For those who wish for a more cooperative and unified Europe, voting for vehemently nationalist and Eurosceptic parties is clearly not an option.
Image: ‘Europe of Freedom and Democracy Logo’ via Wikimedia Commons, released under Creative Commons.