Saturday

19th Aug 2017

Far-right groups pledge allegiance ahead of elections

  • Alternative for Germany activists in 2013. Media were told not to take pictures at Saturday's Koblenz meeting. (Photo: strassenstriche.net)

Europe's biggest far right parties are hoping to secure election wins following a demonstration of allegiance with one another at a rally in the German town of Koblenz.

The Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), a political faction at the European Parliament, on Saturday (21 January) heralded in a premier for Frauke Petry of Alternative for Germany (AfD), whose anti-immigrant party has attempted to distance itself from the more fringe elements of the grouping ahead of Germany's September elections.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Petry's first ever public appearance alongside far-right heavyweight Marine Le Pen is part of a broader effort to capture what they say is a growing insurgency against the European Union, multiculturalism, Islam, and migration across the whole of Europe.

Petry, Le Pen, and Dutchman Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom (PVV) had entered into the Rhein-Mosel-Halle centre to the sound of Vangelis chants amid a standing ovation of several hundred party faithful.

Leaders from Austria's Freedom Party, Belgium's Vlaams Belang, the Czech Republic's Dawn of Direct Democracy, and Italy's Northern League followed.

Petry's husband, German MEP Marcus Pretzell, had organised the event, and opened the ceremony in praise of Donald Trump's US presidential win before launching sharp attacks against the European Union and Islam.

"Welcome to the new Europe," he told a crowd, whose rambunctious presence filled most, but not all available seats.

Pretzell also took a slight stab defending his press entry ban on major German media, including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Der Spiegel, noting that dozens of others were allowed in, including Deutsche Welle.

Senior figures within the AfD remain wary of the new Petry and Le Pen duo, however. Jorg Meuthen, who co-chairs the party with Petry, told German press that the "ENF matter has nothing to do with the AfD."

The weekend rally also comes a day after Trump's inauguration, a man seen by Europe's far-right as an important driver towards the demise of the European Union and the full return of nation states with hard borders.

'Brexit with nuclear warhead'

Tempered by the UK's decision to leave the European Union and Trump's anti-EU and protectionist rhetoric, the far right rallying cry is aiming to capitalise on what it sees as a political momentum in its favour.

"We fought, first of all separately in each one of our own countries, and now united, together," said Le Pen.

All spoke in praise of Trump, with Italy's Lega Nord Matteo Salvini wishing him "good luck".

With elections coming up first in the Netherlands, followed by France, and then Germany, the parties are banking on the public malaise triggered, in part, by a large inflow of refugees over the past two years to capture more voters.

Wilders' PVV has already taken a lead in polls ahead of the 15 March general elections in The Netherlands and claims to draw supporters even among its Turkish diaspora.

"The people, the normal, the common people, they will benefit and support us and will be the ones in charge again," Wilders told reporters.

Marine Le Pen of the National Front is likely to make it to the final round of the French presidential election in late April.

Le Pen, who was presented as the next president of France as she took the stage, said the AfD, despite its low appeal in Germany, represented the future of the country.

She then admonished German chancellor Angela Merkel's broad welcome for people fleeing war in Syria, railed against the EU and accused the Brussels' leadership of "tyranny". Her broadside against the chancellor was met with loud "Merkel out" cheers from the crowd.

Like the other leaders present, she also spoke warmly of Trump. "We live in the end of one world and the birth of another," she said.

But the French presidential contender is struggling to finance her campaign amid allegations of fraud and siphoning off money from the European Parliament.

Le Pen had also called out to disgraced former Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson, who she described as a friend. Atkinson was booted out of the eurosceptic British party for false expense claims and now co-chairs the ENF.

"Trump's election was Brexit with a nuclear warhead," said Atkinson before lecturing the media during a press conference.

Not welcomed by all

The presence of hundreds of police officers and demonstrators protesting the rally belies the mood in a town who's left-leaning mayor had opposed the event from the start.

"The right-wing populists are cordially unwelcome," said social democrat Koblenz mayor Joachim Hofmann-Gottig.

Demonstrators had already appeared on the streets late Friday evening. Around 150 had gathered in front of the main train station along with more than 20 police vans before the festive march headed towards Rhein-Mosel-Halle.

The movement picked up on Saturday, with thousands marching against the far-right groups.

One of the demonstrators, Hermann Spix, a 70-year old novelist from a nearby town, told this website that the AfD and similar groups have him worried.

"I am very worried about what these people have as a programme, it is not my programme."

Spix said he had fought hard for democracy and an open country during the late 1960s. That fight, he says, will carry on in the face of an ENF he describes as a step backwards for society in general.

"There were more than 3,000 [protesters] today and they also want that," he said.

Germany's AfD divided by Le Pen meeting

Far-right parties are planning to launch a joint anti-EU campaign, but their attempt at a show of unity has highlighted differences within Germany's anti-system AfD.

Marine Le Pen spotted at Trump Tower

Marine Le Pen reportedly did not meet with anyone from the Donald Trump team following her unannounced appearance at the Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Opinion

Setting course for strong and focused EU

From strengthening the internal market to completing the energy union, the prime ministers of Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland set out their vision for the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  3. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  6. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  7. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  9. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  10. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy