Monday

22nd Jan 2018

Wilders and Le Pen join forces on anti-EU group

A political group uniting Europe's far-right and anti-EU forces has moved a step closer after Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders confirmed plans to work together ahead of next May's European elections.

"Today is the beginning of the liberation from the European elite, the monster in Brussels," said Wilders at a joint press conference with the National Front leader in the Dutch parliament in The Hague on Wednesday (13 November).

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"We want to decide how we control our borders, our money, our economy, our currency," continued Wilders, a Dutch anti-Islam politician.

"Our old European nations are forced to ask the authorisation of Brussels in all circumstances, forced to submit their budget to the headmistress," said Le Pen

"The people of Europe are standing up against the EU. They want to defend their identity."

Last month Le Pen told reporters in the Strasbourg parliament that she was hopeful of persuading nationalist candidates from across the EU to run on the ticket of the European Alliance for Freedom (EAF).

The public pact between the two main standard-bearers of the eurosceptic right will alarm Europe's mainstream political parties who fear a voter backlash next May.

Le Pen and Wilders' parties currently top the opinion polls in France and the Netherlands. Recent surveys put Wilders' Freedom party on 20 percent, while the National Front are also polling between 20-25 percent, outstripping Francois Hollande's governing socialist party and the opposition conservatives.

Current opinion polls suggest that far-right parties could take around 100 of the 751 seats in the next parliament.

Belgian Flemish separatists Vlaams Belang, Austria's Freedom party and the Swedish Democrats have also been confirmed as allies, although Nigel Farage's UK independence party, which is also expected to perform well next May, has so far ruled out joining the coalition.

Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant Danish People's party said Wednesday they would not join Le Pen and Wilders.

The EAF was set up in 2010 and has since received over €750,000 from the European Parliament. Being able to form a political group of MEPs would entitle it to over €1 million worth of secretarial and political assistance.

Under the European Parliament's Rules of Procedure, at least 25 MEPs from seven countries are needed to form a party group. Around 30 independent 'non-attached' MEPs and the UKIP-dominated Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) account for most of the eurosceptic deputies in the Parliament.

However, although Le Pen and Wilders have ruled out joining forces with more overtly racist parties such as Greece's Golden Dawn and Hungary's Jobbik, there are still clear ideological differences between Europe's far-right parties.

This has caused previous attempts to form a cohesive group to collapse.

Despite being united in their euroscepticism and anti-immigrant rhetoric, the economic liberalism of the Freedom party and Vlaams Belang sits awkwardly with the National Front's more statist approach to economic policy.

Mainstream political parties have "reason to worry but no reason to panic" said Roland Freudenstein of the Centre for European Studies, a centre-right think tank, at a European Parliament meeting on the subject last week.

But he noted that mainstream parties have made the mistake of treating multiculturalism and integration as taboo subjects.

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