EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Like chocolate and mustard, or orange juice and toothpaste, the various flavours of far right in the new European Parliament just don't seem to go together and are already having trouble cooking up a united bloc in the chamber, despite the gains the extremists made in the European elections on the weekend.
The ‘softer' far-right parties so far seem more interested in jumping aboard the UK Tories' proposed European Conservatives grouping than cobbling together a nationalist bloc, but it is an open question whether the attraction will be requited.
The European elections on the weekend delivered a moderate advance of eight seats on the number of MEPs in the last parliament, eliciting fears that they might club together in a political grouping in the parliament, a move that would open a tap to thousands of euros in EU funds.
However, while it is still too early to make any definitive predictions, there seems to be an unbreachable antagonism between the more moderate parties and their cousins further to the right.
Some of the new MEPs from the likes of Dutchman Geert Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) or the Danish People's Party may well be opposed to migrants, Muslims and minorities, but they are reluctant to embrace the militant nationalism of the more classically ‘fascistic' parties such as the British National Party, France's Front National or newcomer Jobbik from Hungary, with its paramilitary Hungarian Guard straight out of the 1930s.
At the same time, even such a division - the far-right ‘classic' and far-right ‘lite' as Glyn Ford, centre-left MEP and longtime monitor of parties to the right of the conservative mainstream, describes the two rough wings of European extremism - simplifies a situation that is further complicated by personal rivalries, competing nationalist narratives and in some cases just an inability to play together nicely.
DPP in talks with Tories
On Tuesday (9 June), freshly elected MEP Morten Messerschmidt of the Danish People's Party was in Brussels for meeting on Tuesday the Tories, who have announced they are to split with the European People's Party (EPP), the centre-right - and largest - grouping in the parliament.
"We're definitely looking towards the new European Conservatives grouping than the other[parties on the far right]," DPP spokesperson Nina Lusty told EUobserver.
"It depends on whether they agree to our agenda," she said. "It's not that we'd be uncomfortable with sitting with other parties, it's just that we'd be most comfortable with the Tories."
Another DPP official told this paper that the party would prefer to remain in the Union for a Europe of the Nations - the other main right-wing grouping in the European Parliament, which is expected to disintegrate after the defection of Ireland's centre-right Fianna Fail for the Liberal grouping and the folding of self-styled post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale of Italy into the EPP.
"But, as you know, we don't know if there'll still be a UEN."
Nevertheless, the DPP says negotiations with the Tories have been "tough".
The Lijst Dedecker, a brand-new Flemish populist group that has attracted a number of MPs, local councillors and party members from the hard-right Flemish separatist Vlaams Belang, has also reportedly talked to the Conservatives.
A source close to discussions confirmed the talks with the DPP but said: "I'd be very surprised if the Danes join with the Conservatives. The Tories are trying to build a mainstream anti-federalist grouping.
James Holton, spokesperson for the Conservatives in the parliament said he expected the discussions on the forming of the group with a wide number of parties to take at least another few weeks.
So far the soft eurosceptic governing coalition senior partner in the former Czech government, the Civic Democrats (ODS), has officially signed up.
Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) party of President Lech Kaczynski are also on board, although no announcements have yet been made.
A source close to the UEN told EUobserver that the grouping will be wrapped up and "totally consumed into the European Conservative grouping, apart from those parties that the Tories don't want in."
Andreas Moelzer of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) - which won 13 percent of the country's votes, more than doubling its share since the last European Parliament elections in 2004 - told this paper that they are hoping to join either the UEN or the eurosceptic Ind/Dem groupings in the parliament.
In February, the FPO invited the Danish People's Party, the Vlaams Belang, France's Front National and Bulgaria's Ataka (National Union Attack) to a conference on the Lisbon Treaty.
According to the UEN source, "the Freedom Party wouldn't be welcomed into the UEN, let alone the new Conservative grouping."
"No way. Not under any circumstances," he said twice.
Northern League: ‘No anti-semites'
Mario Borghezio, the head of Italy's Lega Nord, or Northern League, delegation in the parliament believed that the UEN group would continue, despite its defections, and was surprised to hear the Poland's PiS had committed to joining the European Conservatives.
"We have a meeting next week with the Poles to discuss the future of the group," he said, adding nevertheless that the possibility of joining the Conservatives was "not excluded."
"It would depend on whether they adopt acceptable positions. It's possible," he continued.
The Tories for their part are believed to be opposed to the entry of the xenophobic Northern League into their new club.
"The only parties that would absolutely be excluded would be those that are too extreme, anti-semitic," he said, declining to name which parties he would define as too extreme.
The League also has very good relations with the Flemish separatist Vlaams Belang.
"We will examine the terrain in Brussels in the coming weeks."
Far-right ‘dream team
The Vlaams Belang for its part has not had any discussions with any other parties to the right of the conservative mainstream and does not expect to do so for a few weeks.
"We're waiting a bit to get involved in talks," said spokesperson Philip Claeys, "Many of the parties we would like to work with are currently in discussions with the UK Conservatives."
The Vlaams Belang is not however looking to join the Conservative grouping because of its support for Turkish entry into the EU.
"That for us is a red line."
The VB's ‘dream team', he said, would involve a core of themselves and Italy's Northern League, the Danish People's Party, the Austrian Freedom Party and the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders. This core would deliver only 19 seats from five countries, short of the 25 MEPs from seven member states that the parliament's rules require.
"So we would have to add some other parties as well," he said, such as Greece's Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), the Slovak National Party or the For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK from Latvia.
The Flemish separatists are reluctant to work with parties further to the right, the Greater Romania Party in particular.
"We worked with them in the past. We know them and we don't have very good memories of that time."
"At the same time, we're not saying we don't want to work with them, but they have caused us a lot of problems. They're not our first choice."
Geert Wilders won't play with the others
Mr Claeys said the party would be particularly happy to work with the PVV of Geert Wilders. The Austrian Freedom Party also quickly congratulated its Dutch namesake, after its shock election of four MEPs, which pushed the junior partner in the country's coalition government, the Labour Party, into third place.
"They don't quite realise yet what it means to be unattached."
A spokesperson for the PVV however, told the EUobserver said that ahead of the elections, the party would sit independently in the chamber.
"We refuse to sit with anyone else, including the Vlaams Belang," he told EUobserver, "Anyone can congratulate us all they want, but we are going in a different direction."
The VB's Mr Claeys said he expected the PVV to come around in the future, once they realise what sort of isolation is involved with being ‘non-inscrit' in the parliament - the term for MEPs that do not belong to any political grouping.
Far right ‘Classic'
Meanwhile, BNP deputy leader Simon Darby said that the party is to meet with the Front National next Tuesday in Brussels.
"As yet we don't know if anyone else will be there, but we're willing to sit down with anyone and listen, whatever their beliefs," he told EUobserver.
Catherine Savagnac, a Front National spokeswoman, told this website that they continue to work with the Austrian Freedom Party, the Vlaams Belang, Bulgaria's Ataka and the newly elected BNP, and have contacts with Hungary's Jobbik.
"But together we're not enough to form a group in the parliament."
Such a formation would total 14 MEPs from six member states, still well below the cut-off for group funding.
She added that relations with the Greater Romania Party (which has just elected three MEPs) "did not end well. So it is not probable that we will work with them again. But everything's possible."
The Front National also refuses to work with the Movement pour la France of national sovereignist Philippe de Villiers, whose party ran under the Libertas banner during the elections. "There are contacts between individual MEPs, but not at the political level. There was a rupture with Mr de Villiers."
"Much depends on what happens with whether the UEN and Ind/Dem are able to form a group and what sort of groups are attracted to the new Conservative group."
"It's all their fault. They've scrambled everything."
Identity, Sovereignty, Tradition Mark II?
Graeme Atkinson of Searchlight underscored that despite the growth of the far right in the new parliament, it was lower than might have expected given the scale of the economic crisis and that it was important to neither scaremonger nor dismiss the MEPs simply because they are not explicit neo-Nazis.
"While they've made real gains, we shouldn't exaggerate, and really, it looks like they won't be able to forge a group once again."
In 2007, 23 MEPs clubbed together to form the Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty political grouping in the parliament. It only lasted a few months before it exploded as a result of remarks by member Alessandra Mussolini about Romanian ‘criminals' in Italy that the Romanian members of the group found insulting.
"There were major set-backs in the elections for the Front National in France and the Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the two slickest, most professional of the far-right outfits."
The Front National dropped from seven seats won in 2004 to just three on Sunday. The VB dropped from three to two.
"Without them forming a backbone, I don't know whether they'll be able to co-ordinate much in the parliament."
"Nick Griffin supposedly has influence amongst some of the European far right groups, but he's just not very smart. It'll be very hard to glue anything together."
He explained that the Front National has been riven with faction fighting, notably over the issue of succession following the presumed departure of the aging Jean-Marie Le Pen, and is virtually bankrupt, having been forced to sell their headquarters.
In the June EP elections, former FN MEP Carl Lang ran a dissident far-right list under the ‘Parti de France' banner against the official FN list led by Marine Le Pen in the North-West constituency.
"They are incapable of presenting a united image," Mr Atkinson said.