German Party's Ouster Sought by Cameron's EU Parliament Groupby
Assembly's ECR faction reacts to controversial refugee remark
Action comes as Merkel seeks to prevent AfD gains on Sunday
The European Parliament political group led by U.K. allies of British Prime Minister David Cameron plans to expel two German members after their national party supported keeping Mideast refugees out of Germany by shooting them if necessary.
The European Conservatives and Reformists faction gave Beatrix von Storch and Marcus Pretzell until the end of March to leave the ECR or face a motion of expulsion. Storch and Pretzell belong nationally to the Alternative for Germany party, whose co-leader, Frauke Petry, in January said German border guards should use firearms against illegal migrants as a last resort.
The ECR, headed by U.K. Conservative Party member Syed Kamall, is weighing into German politics with its move against Storch and Pretzell. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking to prevent losses for her Christian Democratic party and gains for the AfD in three German state elections on March 13. Polls show a surge in support for the AfD, which campaigns against immigration.
“It has become clear that ourselves and the AfD are traveling in different political directions,” Ashley Fox, another U.K. member of the ECR, said in a statement late Tuesday from the 28-nation Parliament’s headquarters in Strasbourg, France. “Several of their recent comments and actions have put them at odds with our core values.”
The dispute within the ECR sheds light on the range of protest movements across the European Union and the various shades of political reactions to Europe’s biggest refugee wave since the Second World War. Last month in Brussels, Cameron gained backing from fellow European leaders to curb welfare payments to foreigners in Britain as part of an agreement to rejig U.K. ties to the rest of the EU.
The ECR, the third-biggest faction in the EU Parliament, added AfD members after elections to the assembly in 2014 that were marked by a surge in support for anti-establishment parties. If the 75-strong ECR ends up without Storch and Pretzell, it would remain the No. 3 faction, behind the European People’s Party and the Socialists.
Storch, who has expressed support for Petry’s comment on shooting refugees, said she and Pretzell don’t plan to leave the ECR and predicted the group won’t garner the needed majority to throw them out. She alleged the expulsion threat stems from British-German political maneuvering aimed at aiding Merkel before Sunday’s state ballots.
“The British in the ECR group are obviously allowing themselves to be harnessed to the German cart and Angela Merkel is trying to produce bad press for us before the elections in Germany,” Storch said by phone on Wednesday.