Parliament groups vow to stop far-right MEPs chairing committees

The cordon sanitaire still holds in the European Parliament.

Mainstream political groups in the new European Parliament will try to block the far-right Identity & Democracy (ID) group from chairing the committees on agriculture and legal affairs, officials from key groups said Tuesday.

Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvinis newly formed bloc claimed “the right” to lead both committees last week after a draft plan for the divvying up of parliamentary jobs was drawn up.

The center-right European Peoples Party will “block” the two MEPs nominated by the group in confirmation votes that will take place in the first meetings of each committee next week “as it has been agreed with the other groups,” a spokesperson for the EPP group wrote in an email to POLITICO.

At a press lunch in Strasbourg earlier on Tuesday, Sylvie Guillaume, the head of the French Socialist delegation, said: “All pro-EU groups support the cordon sanitaire on ID, it is clear.”

Chairmanships of parliamentary committees are divvied up depending on each groups weight in the newly elected assembly using a proportionality principle.

An official from the Greens also said the anti-ID shield was agreed by a majority.

A similar anti-far right alliance prevented MEPs such as those from the National Rally from gaining any official positions in the last Parliament, but the principle was reportedly under threat as Euroskeptics gained more power in this assembly.

In order to keep the far right at bay, MEPs in both committees would have to rally around an alternative chair when they put candidates to a vote in each committee.

An EU official, currently in Strasbourg, said: “From what I understand there would be the cordon sanitaire and whoever the ID puts forward as their candidate, there should be another candidate. And MEPs, from what Im hearing, are most inclined in favor of the other candidate.”

Italian Socialist MEP Paolo De Castro | Mathieu Cugnot/European Union

The spokesperson for the EPP group wrote that they will block “case by case” and the posts will be shared “among EPP, S&D, liberals and greens.”

The agriculture committee is handling key policy files, first among them the blocs Common Agricultural Policy. The S&D group is likely to put forward a candidate in the AGRI Committee, two Parliament officials said.

A strong contender for the post is veteran Italian Socialist MEP Paolo De Castro.

“Of course hes interested,” a Parliament official close to him told POLITICO. “He used to be chairman two terms ago so of course, yes.”

“I think there is a high probability that it will be De Castro, if S&D gets it,” another Parliament official said.

Chairmanships of parliamentary committees are divvied up depending on each groups weight in the newly elected assembly using a proportionality principle — but are also the result of a complex negotiation between political groups which takes into account all of the Parliaments top jobs.

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