Home Europe Former Czech PM Andrej Babiš quits liberal Renew group in EU Parliament

Former Czech PM Andrej Babiš quits liberal Renew group in EU Parliament

by editor

BRUSSELS — Andrej Babiš’ MEPs will leave the liberal Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, he announced at a press conference Friday.

His Action of Dissatisfied Citizens party (ANO), which came first in the EU election in the Czech Republic, has been a key player in the centrist faction, which is dominated by Emmanuel Macron’s MEPs and those of other liberal parties such as the Dutch VVD of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“It was decided yesterday. We are leaving Renew because we cannot fulfill our program there. And we don’t want to betray our voters,” Ondřej Knotek, an MEP from ANO who was re-elected in June, told POLITICO.

ANO is also set to quit the pan-European umbrella family of liberal parties known as ALDE.

“Renew and ALDE have different positions to the ANO movement,” Babiš said at the press conference.

In a statement, ALDE said: “While regretting that the ANO party has chosen a path taking them further from liberal values, the ALDE Party and its partners in the European Parliament remain united in our mission to promote our liberal values and we shall continue to do so, reflecting the trust invested in us by voters.”

Babiš has long been at odds with many in the liberal family as he has veered into populism and spoken out vehemently against the European Green Deal and the EU’s policy on migration.

“We went to the elections to fight illegal migration, to change the Green Deal, which is destroying our European industry and agriculture and is having a negative impact on our citizens,” Babiš said.

His decision to quit will likely come as some relief to those on the more socially progressive side of Renew, including Macron’s MEPs. This week, a letter sent by the five MEPs from the pan-European Volt to party members remarked that one of the reasons they preferred joining the Greens rather than Renew was that the “populist” party of Babiš was at the time a member of Renew.

Renew President Valérie Hayer said in a statement: “This was a divorce that was long overdue. ANO has chosen a populist path that is incompatible with our values and identity.”

But losing ANO will be another numerical blow to the Renew group, as the Czech party won seven seats in the EU election. It will make it extremely difficult for Renew to again become the third-biggest group in Parliament, a spot recently stolen by the hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists group. That means Renew could get hold of fewer prestigious legislative roles in the next Parliament, which kicks off in mid-July.

It is unclear where ANO will end up in the European Parliament. The other groups that are viable options are already populated by rival Czech parties who are unlikely to want to sit with Babiš.

This article has been updated with comments from ALDE and Valérie Hayer.

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