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Austria's Freedom aims to enlarge Eurosceptic bloc

Head of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) Heinz-Christian Strache enters his car after leaving a meeting with fellow European right-wing pol
Head of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) Heinz-Christian Strache enters his car after leaving a meeting with fellow European right-wing pol

By Georgina Prodhan

VIENNA (Reuters) - A core of six Eurosceptic parties is aiming to win over another four right-wing parties to create a new political group in the EU parliament, the leader of Austria's Freedom Party said.

In the run up to May's EU-wide elections to the parliament, momentum is building to create a grouping of nationalist parties which would entitle members to more office space and support staff as well as EU funds for meetings and publicity.

The parties hope to capitalize on what polls suggest is rising voter frustration with growing centralization of powers in the European Union and dwindling national sovereignty.

"The goal is to reach 10," Heinz-Christian Strache told Reuters by telephone on Saturday from Turin, where he said he and Geert Wilders, Dutch nationalist Freedom Party leader, were guests of the Italian anti-immigration Northern League.

To form an official group, at least 25 members of parliament must join, representing at least seven countries.

Currently, the fledgling European Alliance for Freedom has six parties: the Freedom parties of Austria and the Netherlands, the Italian Northern League, France's National Front, Belgium's Vlaams Belang and Sweden's Democrats.

Britain's UK Independence Party (UKIP) has rebuffed overtures from the alliance, while the group itself rejects more extreme right-wing parties such as Hungary's Jobbik or Greece's Golden Dawn.

Asked who the next four parties to join the alliance might be, Strache said: "It's not an issue at the moment. It's about building on our partnership and exchanging views."

"The six parties are the core of the cooperation."

Austria's Freedom party won 21 percent of the vote in national elections in September, behind the centrist Social Democrats and conservative People's Party, who agreed another term of coalition government this week.

An opinion poll last week suggested that Freedom had overtaken the two mainstream parties to become the most popular, with 25 percent of voter support.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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