"Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty" (ITS) is a group in the European Parliament formed on January 15, 2007 by members who share xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic views. The grouping brings together 20 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from seven countries -- meeting the minimum number of members required to establish a bloc under the Parliament's rules.
The group includes members of notorious far-right extremist parties and well-known anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers from across Europe. One of its most prominent members, Bruno Gollnisch of France, was convicted of Holocaust denial by a French court in January 2007. Like all groupings in the European Parliament, ITS is entitled to about 1 million Euros for staff and administrative costs. The group may also claim greater speaking rights and committee representation.
The group was formed after the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union on January 1. As a result of the accession of these countries, there were enough far-right MEPs in the European Parliament to allow the creation of ITS. It is one of eight multinational political groups in the European Parliament. Christian Democrats, Socialists and Greens are among the other groups. ITS currently has the smallest number of affiliated MEPs, but there are concerns that its influence will spread and that the group will grow.
The group's formation was a sobering reminder that bigoted, racist and anti-Semitic political movements are not only still part of the landscape in Europe, but are willing to unify under one banner if given the chance.
The following is a Who's Who of the "Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty" group (by country):
The far-right Freedom Party, which entered Austria's previous governing coalition in 2000, is represented in ITS by Andreas Moelzer. In 2005, Moelzer was expelled from the party for his criticisms of its leader, Joerg Haider, but was readmitted in the same year when Haider and others founded a rival party.
In 1999, as Editor-in-Chief of the weekly Zur Zeit, Moelzer published an article by a writer who praised Hitler as a "great social revolutionary" and denied the basic facts of the Holocaust.
The Flemish Interest party was formed in 2004 after its precursor, the Flemish Bloc, was declared a racist organization in Belgium's highest court. The party has supplied three MEPs to ITS - Philip Claeys, Koenraad Dillen and Frank Vanhecke. It campaigns for the independence of Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, and is deeply hostile to immigrants and minorities. Under the leadership of Filip Dewinter, the party has tried to court Jewish voters by ratcheting up its anti-Muslim rhetoric. However, its participation in the ITS suggests that its traditional anti-Semitism has not been discarded.
In 2005, Claeys abstained on a European Parliament resolution paying homage to the victims of the Nazis and condemning Holocaust denial. Dillen is well-known as a supporter of the late Leon Degrelle, a notorious Belgian Nazi who was a decorated officer in the Waffen SS and later became a prominent Holocaust denier. In 2002, Vanhecke was one of a group of European far-right leaders who met at the home of the then Austrian Freedom Party leader, Joerg Haider, to discuss cooperation in the European Parliament.
Led by Volen Siderov, who is infamous for his anti-Semitic and racist remarks, the Attack Coalition polled 9 percent of the vote in Bulgaria's 2005 elections. Attack Coalition's MEP and ITS representative,
Dimitar Stoyanov – at 23, the youngest member of the European Parliament – used the occasion of ITS's foundation to launch a bitter attack on what he called the "Jewish establishment". Stoyanov has also refused to retract comments in which he railed against "…powerful Jews, with a lot of money, who are paying the media to form the social awareness of people. They are also playing with economic crises in countries like Bulgaria and getting rich." Stoyanov has also accused Roma parents of selling their young daughters into prostitution.
The National Front is arguably the best-known far-right party in Europe. The party is led by an avowed racist and anti-Semite, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is also one of the six National Front MEPs represented in the ITS group. The others are Bruno Gollnisch, Marine Le Pen (daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen), Carl Lang, Fernand Le Rachinel, Jean-Claude Martinez and Lydia Schenardi.
Gollnisch, the leader of the party's European Parliamentary grouping, was convicted by a Lyon court on January 18, 2007 of "disputing a crime against humanity". He received a three month suspended sentence and a fine of $6,450. The conviction was based on remarks Gollnisch made at a press conference in October 2004, when he questioned the existence of the Nazi gas chambers and and suggested that the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust might have been exaggerated. These remarks fit a well-established pattern of National Front figures questioning and demeaning the Holocaust; Le Pen himself became notorious in 1987 when he dismissed the Holocaust as a "minor detail" in the history of World War II.
Social Alternative, a coalition of far-right parties, is represented in ITS by MEP Alessandra Mussolini, the grand-daughter of the late fascist dictator and Hitler ally, Benito Mussolini. Mussolini's involvement in far-right and neo-fascist politics stretches back over decades. MEP Luca Romagnoli, the Tricolor Flame party's representative in ITS, has flirted with Holocaust denial. In February 2006, he declared on Italian television: "You ask me if the gas chambers existed. Frankly, I have no way of confirming or denying it." Romagnoli's comments were widely condemned by Italian and European Parliament politicians.
Greater Romania Party
The Greater Romania Party is infamous for its anti-Semitic and anti-minority stance. Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor has a strongly anti-Semitic reputation and frequently attacks the Roma and the Hungarian minorities in Romania. The party has contributed five MEPs to the ITS group - Daniela Buruiana Aprodu, Eugen Mihaescu, Viorica Pompilia Georgeta Moisuc, Petre Popeanga and Cristian Stanescu. Tudor, the Party leader, has reached out to Romania's Jewish community in the past but was rebuffed, as the Greater Romania Party's xenophobic and anti-Semitic stance remains fundamentally unchanged.
The sole British representative to ITS is Ashley Mote, an independent MEP. Mote was previously a member of the marginal UK Independence Party, which opposes British membership of the European Union, but was expelled in 2004 after he faced allegations of fraud. Mote's description of ITS as "center-right" in orientation was widely ridiculed by observers who pointed to the presence of Holocaust deniers and neo-fascists in the group's ranks.