BRUSSELS — The far-right parties in the European Parliament announced Tuesday they have mustered enough unity to form a political group under the leadership of France's National Front of Marine Le Pen.
Tuesday's move of the National Front, the Dutch PVV of Geert Wilders, Austria's Freedom Party, Italy's Northern League and the Belgian Flemish Interest Party will give them more clout in the European Union legislature and add more of an anti-EU flavor to proceedings.
"I am happy to announce the beginning of the group Europe of Nations and Freedoms," Le Pen told reporters as she was surrounded by leaders of the other political groups.
"We will be a political force that cannot be compared to our previous situation," she said. Most of the parties made gains in last year's European elections but until now had failed to find enough cohesion to form a united group.
"This is D-Day. This is the beginning of our liberation," said Wilders, the Dutch political firebrand best known for his anti-Islam and anti-immigration stance.
Forming a recognized group gives the politicians more staff, right of initiative and access to funds.
To get full standing in the 751-seat legislature, a group needs to have at least 25 members from seven nations. Le Pen's National Front already has 23 by itself, so individual membership was not so much a problem as getting the country quota.
On top of the nations of the five parties, two Poles and a member of Britain's UKIP party also joined to get to seven.
The political impact on the legislature is still expected to be minor since the Christian Democrat-led EPP has 221 members and the S&D socialists 191.
With the parties' strongly nationalist agendas and belief in independent decision-making, Wilders also acknowledged it would sometimes be tough to act as one.
"Of course we have difference, but the differences are not our weakness but our strength," Wilders said.