Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday (22 January), Marine Le Pen, who was elected to the European Parliament in 2009, said she was “optimistic” about the chances of creating such a political group.
The FN’s programme is focused on fighting flagship EU projects like the euro currency and the Schengen passport-free area, promoting the “primacy of the nation-state” over international institutions like the EU.
This populist and Eurosceptic agenda is shared by a number of other European parties. The European Alliance for Freedom (EAF), a recently created pan-European group of Eurosceptics, brings together the French FN, the Austrian FPÖ, the Belgian Vlaams Belang and the Swedish Democrats, which together will constitute the basis of the future parliamentary group.
“We hope we will be able to establish a group after the EU elections with other parties who share our criticism of the EU and we’re working on it,” Le Pen explained.
However, the alliance may be short of MEPs to form a political group in Parliament. Even though opinion polls suggest the FN could become France's biggest party at the election, it would still need 25 MEPs from at least six other member states to create a political group in the European Parliament. The FN currently has three MEPs, the Austrians and Belgians have two, while the Swedish have none, meaning they will need to broaden their network.
Italy and Lithuania on board
The president of the Front National claims she wants a “political” group and not only a technical group, but remains deliberately vague on the possible alliances.
“To create a group, we first need candidates to be elected,” she said. “We will wait and see if the group gets elected candidates at the next European elections,” Le Pen explained.
For now, meetings are taking place with Geert Wilders, the Dutch leader of the Freedom Party PVV and with the Northern League in Italy. Other Eurosceptic parties in Italy could become potential partners, she said.
“Italy is incredibly rapidly moving towards a strong Eurosceptic tendency,” Le Pen underlined.
While the French far-right is trying to unite forces at EU level, it faces divisions at home. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, the leader of a competing Eurosceptic French party refused to join the FN on electoral lists, saying he will run independently.
“Nicolas Dupont-Aignan has exactly the same positions as we do on the EU but he refused to accept a helping hand and wants to run alone,” Le Pen deplored, predicting that Dupont-Aignan's party was bound to “fail” and was “dividing the patriots’ camp”.
Aymeric Chauprade, an expert in geopolitics and advisor to Le Pen on international issues since 2010, will be leading one of the FN's electoral lists for the EU elections.
But the FN president refused to say more about the candidates, adding that names would be unveiled progressively.
For now, only a few candidates are known, among whom are Marine Le Pen and her father Jean-Marie, 85, the founder the of the Front National.