08.11.2007 - 17:43 CET
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The anti-immigrant far-right political group in the European Parliament is on the verge of collapse following internal fighting over comments made by an Italian member about Romanians and criminality.
The Greater Romania party on Thursday (7 November) announced that it was withdrawing its five members from the Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty group following comments expressed by Alessandra Mussolini, grand-daughter of the facist Il Duce, about Romanians after a much publicised murder of an Italian last week.
The suspected perpetrator is thought be a Romanian immigrant from the Roma community and prompted harsh rhetoric from far-right politicians in Italy, including Ms Mussonlini.
In response, a letter by the head of the Greater Romania party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, states that "The unconsciousness of this lady [Ms Mussonlini] who makes easily generalisations, leaving to understand that all the Romanians are living like delinquents and are making dreadful crimes - remind us of her grandfather, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini (...)."
"With the exit of the 5 Romanian MEPs, who became independent again, the Identity-Tradition Sovereignty group disappears," says the letter.
According to Mr Vadim, whose own party has been regularly accused of racism, Ms Mussolini is quoted in Romanian newspapers as saying: "Breaking the law became a way of life for Romanians. However, it is not about petty crimes, but horrifying crimes, that gives one goose bumps."
Later on Thursday, it emerged that the Romanians were considering trying to stay in the group but get Ms Mussolini removed - in this way the group would be able to continue to exist.
A decision is to be made next Tuesday. A spokesperson for the ITS group told EUobserver that they are going to "use the weekend" for negotiations and that it was "not possible to say" yet whether the group would survive.
Under EU assembly rules, a party must have at least 20 members from six member states.
The turmoil in the group - which was less than a year old - has already caused a certain amount of schadenfreude among officials and MEPs in the parliament.
Some already sent out press releases announcing welcoming the demise of the group.
"Watching these people argue amongst themselves warms the heart," said Scottish MEP Alyn Smith in a statement.
"The European Parliament is a home to Europe's democracy and it is right that all views are represented but I dislike everything these people stand for and am glad to see their
group collapse," continued the MEP.
The diverse group also houses politicians from France's and Belgium's anti-immigrant National Front and Vlaams Belang, as well as Andrew Mölzer (an Austrian MEP kicked out of a far-right party in Austria for being too extremist), Dimitar Stoyanov (a Bulgarian MEP who caused a ruckus in the parliament last year when he circulated a derogatory email about Roma people) and two Italian MEPs Luca Romagnoli and Alessandra Mussolini.
Another of its members, UK MEP Ashley Mote, is currently in jail for benefit fraud.
During its months as a group, it has failed to act as a coherent political faction appearing to bear out analysts predictions that its various parts have little to unite them.
Correction - An earlier version of this article stated that the group had already collapsed following the circulation of a letter stating that the Romanian MEPs had left the group. It has since been amended to reflect the fact that the Greater Romania MEPs have re-entered negotiations on the issue.