Extremist Euro-Deputy Group Formed

Capping their largest series of local, regional and national electoral successes since World War II, far-right extremists in Europe have managed for the first time to create an ultranationalist bloc within the European Parliament. The formation of the "Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty" (ITS) group in January entitles its members to more speaking time, more committee posts and about $1.34 million a year.

Three days after the new group became official, its leader, Bruno Gollnisch of France's Front National, was convicted of Holocaust denial. A French court handed him a suspended three-month sentence and fined him more than $6,000. The creation of a far-right bloc in the European Parliament had long been sought by parties with xenophobic, anti-Semitic and racist views, but only became possible after Jan. 1, when Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union. Six far-right deputies from the two new countries brought the total of extremist Euro-deputies to 21, just over the threshold for eligibility for government funds.

ITS, which describes itself as standing up for traditional European culture and the sovereignty of each EU member state, claims to represent 23 million voters.

The new caucus includes six members of racist Romanian parties; one member of the Austrian Freedom Party; independent British member Ashley Mote; two members of extreme-right Italian parties (including the granddaughter of World War II dictator Benito Mussolini); seven members of France's Front National; three members of an extremist Belgian party; and one from a racist Bulgarian party. The creation of ITS follows several years of local electoral successes by extremists in countries like Austria, Belgium, Britain and France. But it marks a major new milestone in the radical right's reach for continental power.