Why we didn’t support 5 * joining ALDE

As I have been asked the reasons why the Estonian delegation did not support the Italian 5* movement to join ALDE, I put down some of them. These are mostly related to the fact that the political beliefs of the Five Star Movement are very different from those of ALDE.

1) 5* Movement supports anti-European, nationalistic policies, including leaving the Eurozone. They call for a unilateral referendum on Italy’s membership of the Eurozone, and propose an alliance of the southern Member States against the North. They frequently criticize Germany, thus undermining European unity. ALDE, on the other hand, is the most pro-European of all political groups in the European Parliament. We believe strongly that a united Europe is vital for solving the problems that we face today.

2) 5* Movement is anti-global, and fought against TTIP and CETA. We believe that such international trade deals, and greater global co-operation in general, can bring many benefits to European citizens, and ensure that Europe stays relevant on the global stage.

3) 5* Movement support Brexit, and have declared the result of the British referendum an “extraordinary success”. ALDE, home to the British Liberal Democrats, was a strong supporter of the “in” campaign, and sees the result of the referendum as a great loss for the EU.

4) 5* Movement is against the continuation of sanctions against Russia. ALDE is very vocal about the need to continue the sanctions until the conflict in Ukraine is resolved and its territorial integrity respected. Our voters in Estonia would not accept an alliance with a party that promotes a softer approach to relations with Russia.

5) The economic policies of 5* movement are opposite to those of ALDE. They do not believe in the need of budgetary discipline and structural reforms, while we believe that these two are essential pillars of a viable competitive economy.

Given that there is so little coherence between the positions of 5* movement and ALDE on these and other vital issues, any union between the two would be a purely technical arrangement and would not stem from shared political ideas. ALDE has always been against such a technical approach to comprising groups in the EP. When we recently discussed the Parliament’s rules of procedure at the EP, ALDE introduced an amendment saying that groups should only be formed based on political affinity.

By accepting 5* movement to our group we would have gone against those beliefs, and become the same kind of technical arrangement that we have heretofore criticized. Moreover, as 5* movement would have been unlikely to change their voting behavior overnight, our group would have lost all cohesion and consistency in voting behavior, and consequently the respect and trust of the other groups as a reliable negotiation partner.

Finally, considering that by joining ALDE, 5* movement would have become the biggest delegation in our group, they would have been able to set the tone for ALDE, and radically change our image both within the Parliament and among European citizens. This, in turn, could have led to the draining away of our voter base, who would have found it very hard to comprehend why a liberal group suddenly started co-operating with a movement that represents so many of the things that they have so far fought against.