By Martha Moss - 10th August 2009
Britain's Europe minister Glenys Kinnock has said the new European Conservatives and Reformists Group is "coming apart at the seams" after differences emerged over the Lisbon treaty and agriculture policy.
According to reports in the British press, the ECR's Polish leader Michal Kaminski signalled support for the Lisbon treaty, which is strongly opposed by the UK Tories, the largest national contingent in the recently formed group.
Leader David Cameron, who has promised a referendum on Lisbon, withdrew his 25 MEPs from the centre-right EPP group to form the anti-federalist ECR after the June elections.
However, Kaminski told the Law and Justice Party's website earlier in the year that the treaty "guarantees Poland's sovereignty", according to reports in the Observer.
"[Poland's] president [Lech] Kaczynski has managed to negotiate such a shape of the Lisbon treaty which guarantees Poland's sovereignty," he said.
Kinnock called for the Tories to spell out their policy on the future of the treaty.
"David Cameron needs to get a grip," she said. "The fringe is coming apart at the seams. Cameron and [shadow foreign secretary William] Hague must say where they stand. Do they agree with the leader of their group or do they oppose him and move further from reality?
"Repeating the vague Hague mantra 'matters will not rest ' won't do. They must tell us are they supporting their leader Kaminski or will they go further beyond the fringe?"
Timothy Kirkhope, the Tory leader in the European parliament, said, "Polish Law and Justice, like all other members of our group, has signed up to a set of common principles under the Prague declaration. This commits us to fundamental reform and change in the EU.
"This includes the EU showing greater respect for the decisions of national governments and therefore we do not believe it is our place to dictate policies to them in matters such as this."
In the same interview, Kaminski also defended the common agriculture policy (Cap), saying, "We must be allied with those EU countries that defend the Cap."
The Tories have long been opposed to the Cap, which heavily subsidises European food production.
Labour's former Europe minister Denis MacShane is quoted in the Independent on Sunday as saying, "It now turns out that Michal Kaminski who is leader of the Tory MEPs in their new group in Strasbourg is a strong advocate of the EU's most corrupt, wasteful spending programme," he said.
"What is David Cameron doing in alliance with this man? Critics of the Cap like the Yorkshire Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott have been expelled from the Conservatives to appease this Cap junkie from Poland."
The ECR group has already been hit by controversy with Kaminski - a member for the ultra-nationalist Polish Law and Justice Party - accused over his homophobic and anti-Semitic views.
Veteran MEP McMillan-Scott was also expelled from the Tories last month after standing against Kaminski as an independent vice president for parliament.