February 20, 2019 / 7:38 AM / 3 months ago

Italy's League, 5-Star deny plans to join forces in EU parliament

FILE PHOTO: Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for a news conference in Rome, Italy, January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s far-right League party and its government coalition partner the populist 5-Star Movement denied on Wednesday reports they plan to join forces in the European Parliament after the May vote.

The two rival parties teamed up last year to form a coalition government, and the League has suggested that the two should combine in Strasbourg to leverage the strength of eurosceptic blocs.

But on Wednesday both parties denied reports in newspapers that they would form a single group after the vote. The election, to be held in Italy on May 26, is likely to shift the balance of power within the government toward the League, polls have shown, which is surging on its uncompromising anti-immigration stand.

“A combined League-5 Star group at the European Parliament is not on the horizon,” Stefano Patuanelli, president of the 5-Star group in the Senate, said on Radio Capital.

In an interview published in the Il Messaggero newspaper on Wednesday, League leader Matteo Salvini was cited as saying that 5-Star would be “welcome” to join “a group with all the European nationalists”, but in a radio interview, also on Wednesday, he said he was “not thinking about a single group” for both.

The European election will show a surge in seats for the far right, according to a survey by the European Parliament published on Monday, although the centre-right is set to remain the biggest group in the EU legislature.

Realignments of existing groups are likely as national parties seek allies that fit their policies and with which they can combine their strength with funding and committee posts.

The 5-Star movement now sits with Brexit campaigners the UK Independence Party and has so far looked at joining groups further left in the chamber. The League is allied with Marine Le Pen’s French National Rally and Geert Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom.

Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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