Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Le Pen becomes group leader in EU parliament

  • Atkinson, Le Pen and Wilders (c) with other ENF members in Brussels on Tuesday (Photo: EUobserver)

Far-right leaders Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders unveiled their newly formed group, Europe of Nations and Freedoms (ENF), at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday (16 June).

Le Pen will be co-president along with Marcel de Graaff, from Wilders' PVV party.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Wilders himself is not an MEP.

But he told press: “Today is D-Day, today is the beginning of our liberation … We are the voice of the European resistance."

Le Pen said the group is "strong, convinced, coherent, and ambitious" and will "fight with all its strength to defend our peoples”.

She added that Europe has "nothing to offer" to migrants and that "a concerted dissolution of the euro is the most sensible solution for Europe".

The bulk of the ENF is comprised of MEPs from Le Pen's National Front in France, Wilders' Dutch PVV party, Austria's Freedom Party, Belgium's Vlaams Belang, and Italy's Lega Nord.

Under parliament rules, a group must have at least 25 MEPs from seven different states.

ENF passed the threshold thanks to Janice Atkinson, a British eurosceptic formerly with Ukip, and two MEPs from Poland's Congress of the New Right: Michal Marusik and Stanislaw Zoltek.

With 37 members, it’ll be smaller than the existing eurosceptic group, the 46-strong Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), led by Britain's Ukip and Italy's 5-Star Movement.

Le Pen senior out

National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father, who was suspended from his party in May over revisionist remarks, isn’t part of ENF.

Marine Le Pen, who leads the biggest French delegation in the EU assembly after her party's victory in last year's European election, had struggled to cobble together a group over the past year.

On Tuesday, she ironically thanked parliament president Martin Schulz for his help.

"By treating us as second-class MEPs and administratively persecuting us, he gave us a new energy”, she said.

The creation of ENF was possible because Marusik and Zoltek were deemed more acceptable after they severed ties with Janusz Korwin-Mikke, their Polish KNP colleague, who had made racist, revisionist, and sexist remarks.

It was also possible because Atkinson, who was expelled from Ukip in March over false expenses claims, accepted to join because Jean-Marie Le Pen was excluded.

"I'm happy that he was expelled from the party, my decision [to join] was easier”, she told press.

Influence

Having a group will give Le Pen and her allies more influence in the EU parliament.

The new group will also receive €1.09 million a year in EU funds to do its work.

As group leaders, Le Pen and De Graaff will be able to attend the parliament's conference of presidents, which decides the EU parliaments’ agenda.

The ENF will also be able to name shadow rapporteurs, the MEPs who monitor the legislative process, and will participate in trilogues, the negotiations between parliament, the European Commission, and member states which finalise new laws.

It means that ENF deputies will have more access to information and more leverage on decisions than if they had remained non-attached MEPs.

Agree to disagree

But previous attempts by far-right deputies to form groups have fallen foul of internal divisions.

"We will disagree, but we have more in common than what we disagree about," Atkinson said, comparing the new group to the EFDD, where she was previously seated.

"We have more in common in this group than in EFDD”, she noted, adding that the 5-Star Movement and Ukip tend to vote against each other 80 percent of the time.

Wilders also said that the ENF "will try to find consensus as much as possible”.

“If not," he added, “we will choose according to our national interests".

Opinion

Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.

Opinion

The test for Sweden's new government

While the formation of a new government ends Sweden's fourth-month paralysis, it doesn't resolve the challenge from radical-right populists in Sweden. A key question remains: will treating populists like pariahs undercut the appeal of their, often anti-rights, politics?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  2. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  3. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  4. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  5. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  6. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  7. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  8. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us