- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

BRUSSELS — Far-right European leaders expect today to declare their official status as a publicly funded parliamentary group dedicated to the defense of “Christian values, the family and European civilization.”

The group, calling itself “Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty,” includes Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French National Front leader, and will seek recognition at the opening session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

After years of behind the scenes planning, the group said it had finally achieved the necessary quota of 20 European Union legislators to form an official parliamentary bloc, thanks to several new arrivals from the latest countries to join the bloc — Bulgaria and Romania.

According to one EU official, if the group secures recognition from the European Parliament, it would be eligible for EU campaign funds of more than $1.5 million in 2007.

The group’s proposed chairman, Bruno Gollnisch, also a member of France’s National Front, said that far from being a bunch of skinhead thugs, as critics suggest, the group is led by businessmen, academics and teachers who represent 23.7 million voters across the EU.

He said the group’s slogan will be “Patriots of the world, unite.”

“If the defense of one’s identity is racism or negative, that is a major new political development. That is not the way we see it,” Mr. Gollnisch said.

Far-right legislators, including Andreas Moelzer, once ejected from Austria’s Freedom Party for extremism, and Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Italy’s World War II-era dictator, have long been trying to set up an official international grouping.

The prospect has become concrete with EU entry for Romania, which brought five more sympathetic parliamentarians, and Bulgaria, which brought one.

Bulgaria’s Dimitar Stoyanov is expected to be a leading light of the Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty Group despite being only 23 and the European Parliament’s youngest member. The deputy for Bulgaria’s ultranationalist Ataka party does not hide his views on Bulgaria’s Roma minority and Jews.

Mr. Stoyanov claims most of Bulgaria’s Roma Gypsy minority are prone to criminality and to selling their female children. He denies accusations of anti-Semitism, but says: “There are a lot of powerful Jews, with a lot of money, who are paying the media to form the social awareness of the people.”

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