Germany's AfD divided by Le Pen meeting
A planned meeting of European far-right parties has created cracks within Germany's anti-system party Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Leading AfD figures have openly criticised co-chief Frauke Petry, who said she would appear alongside French far-right leader Marine Le Pen at a gathering later this month.
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The meeting is paid for by the European Parliament's Europe of Nations and Freedoms (ENF) group and will take place in the German city of Koblenz on 21 January.
It is planned as a "European counter-summit", Le Pen's spokesman Ludovic de Danne told Le Figaro, to help far-right parties spread anti-EU messages before elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
"It was important to launch the political season in Germany, in the country of Angela Merkel that we consider largely responsible for the problems of the EU. We want to show that these two women of courage share the same analyses," de Danne added.
"At the rate at which things are progressing today, it is not entirely illusory to think that such a display of Marine Le Pen with Frauke Petry can illustrate a new vision of the Franco-German couple."
The German co-chair, who is fluent in French, recently met Le Pen for the first time in Brussels.
But Georg Pazderski, chairman of AfD's Berlin branch, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily: "I find that the National Front does not suit us at all. The FN is a socialist party. Personally I have reservations."
AfD is anti-euro, but with free-market views.
AfD co-founder and leader of the Brandenburg division, Alexander Gauland, said Petry publicly announced her intention to join in on the meeting before giving party top ranks a chance to comment.
Petry confirmed her participation through Twitter on Monday evening, just hours after she asked party board members by email whether they had objections to the meeting.
Gauland called it a "rather strange approach" and said she should have waited at least a day "out of courtesy".
Koblenz will also host Geert Wilders from the Dutch Party for Freedom, as well as EFN MEPs such as Matteo Salvini from Italy's Northern League, and former Ukip member Janice Atkinson.
Laurentiu Rebega, an independent Romanian MEP and ENF candidate for the post of president of the European Parliament, will also attend.
Rebega also raised eyebrows on Wednesday when he argued that the EFN group does not want to "finish with the EU", in a presidential debate organised by Politico.
He also said the group had "agreed to disagree" on whether Romanians should be allowed to join the Schengen area.
Le Pen has argued against such an extension, while Rebega is in favour.