Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Fini has worked hard to transform his party

Financial Times - 17th January 2001

Sir

As a keen follower of the Italian political scene I really do have to take issue with James Blitz's inaccurate description of Gianfranco Fini's Alleanza Nazionale and Umberto Bossi's Northern League as "far right" ("Boost for Berlusconi from European allies", January 12). Although the breakaway and separate Fiamma Tricolore could certainly be described as "far right", Mr Fini has worked hard to transform his party into a mainstream party, as did Massimo D'Alema, the last prime minister, who changed his Communist party into a party of the democratic left.

Mr Fini has been recognised as a democrat, which is why he was seen by Douglas Hurd when he was UK foreign secretary, while his party sits in the same group as the British Conservatives in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Alleanza Nazionale fought the 1999 Euro-elections on a joint platform with the moderate Christian Democratic Mariotto Segni list on a pro-European integration and single currency manifesto. An analysis of their voting pattern in the European Parliament shows a much higher concordance rate with the EPP than my own Conservative party's!

As to the Northern League, it is true that Mr Bossi has been making Eurosceptic comments about the powers of Brussels and criticism about the building of mosques in Italy. However, a few years ago he was allied to the leftwing parties on a socialist platform so a better label might be Regional Nationalist.

In a few months Silvio Berlusconi may become Italy's prime minister, with Mr Fini as a minister, and comments such as Mr Blitz's are conducive to a replay of the disastrous European Union debacle seen in Austria over Jorg Haider. I credit the FT, which offers generally excellent European coverage, with more sense than that.

As a final point, my colleague Alejandro Agag Longo MEP is Spanish not Portuguese.

Charles Tannock MEP
European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium