Germany's spurned AfD creates third far-right EU parliament group

FILE PHOTO: Germany's far-right AfD holds party convention, in Essen

By Thomas Escritt

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Alternative for Germany (AFD) joined forces with other far-right parties to form a third far-right party alliance in the European Parliament on Wednesday, a group member said.

The Europe of Sovereign Nations group will take its place alongside the Patriots for Europe group led by France's National Rally and the Fidesz party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Italy's Georgia Meloni, who leads the Conservatives and Reformers (ECR) group, lost members to the Patriots last week.

Besides the AfD, the Sovereign Nations group will include small parties from Bulgaria, France, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Czechia and Hungary. With 28 legislators, it will be far smaller than the rival Patriots group, with 84.

The fragmentation of the European Parliament's increasingly crowded far-right flank reflects the deep misgivings Europe's nationalist parties have about their ideological bedfellows in neighbouring countries, making it difficult to form cross-border alliances.

"At our request the group rejected the S.O.S. Romania party's application to join," Laszlo Torozckai, the member from Hungary's Our Homeland party, said in a post on social media announcing the group's formation, highlighting those divisions.

The AfD, whose anti-immigration views and scepticism over support for Ukraine, differ little from the agenda of Marine Le Pen's National Rally, was repudiated by the French party before June's European Parliament elections over one AfD legislator's failure to condemn Germany's Nazi past strongly enough.

To form a new political grouping in the 720-member parliament, 23 MEPs are needed who represent at least a quarter of EU member states. Groups enjoy some legislative and financial privileges.

With 14 MEPs, the AfD will be by far the largest of the Sovereign Nations' nine parties, none of which contribute more than three each.

Maximilian Krah, the legislator whose refusal to condemn all members of the Nazis' murderous wartime SS paramilitary group led to the party being kicked out of Identity and Democracy, said he would not be a member in the new grouping.

"This party group is an important building block of an urgently needed transformation of the EU," Krah told Die Welt newspaper. "The project's importance goes far beyond me so I am satisfied and bear it no ill will."

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Sharon Singleton)