EU Parliamentary Bloc Implodes
Just 10 months after it was formed amid great hopes on the radical right, an ultranationalist bloc in the European Parliament called Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty (ITS) has collapsed — the victim of racist comments made by the granddaughter of Benito Mussolini that infuriated Romanian bloc members.
The irony, to many, was delicious. The group, formed in January 2007, had brought together more than 20 Euro-deputies, most with xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic views, in a voting bloc that was entitled, under parliamentary rules, to speaking time, committee posts, and some $1.3 million a year. At least 20 members were needed to form such a bloc, something that was made possible only when Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1, 2007.
But it all fell apart in November, when Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Italian dictator and an ITS member, called Romanians "habitual lawbreakers" during a debate about an Italian woman allegedly murdered by a Romanian and suggested expelling the Romanian ambassador from Italy.
One Romanian member furiously criticized the "unacceptable amalgam" Mussolini made "between criminal gypsies and the entire Romanian population." Five members of the deputy's party then quit ITS, wrecking it by bringing it below the threshold of 20 deputies.
In a statement to the European Parliament, the members of the Greater Romania Party — which campaigned in Romania on a harshly anti-gypsy platform — decried Mussolini's "xenophobic attitude" and "insults" of Romanians.
The ITS bloc never had an easy time of it. A day after its formation was announced, bloc leader Bruno Gollnisch of France's National Front was convicted in his own country of Holocaust denial. Then, Euro-deputies of several parties worked together to deny ITS the committee leadership posts it was expecting. Finally, ITS' sole Briton, Ashley Mote, was jailed in the United Kingdom for benefit fraud.
The collapse of ITS was greeted with cheers and applause in the European Parliament. Scottish member Alyn Smith's reaction, delivered in a statement, was typical: "Watching these people argue amongst themselves warms the heart."