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Austrian nationalists staying in Le Pen EU parliament group

January 19, 2018

BERLIN (AP) — A top official with Austria’s nationalist Freedom Party says it’s staying in a European Parliament group that also includes the parties of prominent euroskeptics Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders despite entering its country’s new government.

The traditionally euroskeptic Freedom Party last month became the junior partner in a center-right coalition under conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who stresses the importance of a pro-European stance.

The Freedom Party is part of the European Parliament’s overwhelmingly euroskeptic Europe of Nations and Freedom group, which also includes the French National Front of Le Pen and Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom.

Freedom Party general secretary Harald Vilimsky told Friday’s edition of daily Der Standard that his party is staying because it is “a good working basis for us” and it has freedom within the group.

Vilimsky indicated, however, that things could change after Brexit and the next European Parliament election, both scheduled for next year. He noted that there are currently three groups in the EU legislature that are to one extent or another critical of the bloc, and that British parties currently play a prominent role in the other two.

“The aim is to get as many positive EU critics as possible under one roof,” he was quoted as saying.

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