Monday, 30 March 2009

Conservatives should choose their European allies carefully

I was disappointed to read in Sunday’s Observer an allegation that William Hague has met representatives of the Latvian ‘For Fatherland and Freedom Party’ (link from today’s Guardian). The Conservatives have not denied the paper’s assertion, which makes it particularly unsettling.

Having committed itself to leaving the federalist EPP, Hague’s party is now casting around for partners with which to form a more Euro-sceptic coalition in Brussels. Nationalist groups in eastern Europe form a hardened, but frequently unpleasant fringe, which opposes ceding more power to the EU, but otherwise might appear rather unpalatable to the mainstream centre right in Britain.

The ‘Fatherland and Freedom’ party has a hard-line wing which views the Latvian Waffen SS as brave resisters of Soviet aggression. It commemorates the exploits of this unit and its actions reflect a deeper ambiguity in Latvian society as regards its attitude toward those who collaborated with the Nazis during World War 2.

‘For Fatherland and Freedom / LNNK’ (the group merged with the Latvian National Conservative Party) also campaigned for even stricter citizenship laws during the 1990s. Latvia’s legislation in this area is considered ethno-nationalist in character, and imposes discriminatory language requirements on the large Russian minority, yet the party wished to take an even harsher approach.

I appreciate the David Cameron feels he has to retain the backing of his party’s Euro-sceptics. I understand why the Tories are leaving the EPP, given that its agenda of greater European integration is unpopular with the British public. He should choose his European allies carefully, however, because around the fringes of Euro-scepticism lie some unpleasant nationalist parties.

No comments: