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08/12/2016

Difficult home stretch for National Front’s parliamentary group

EU Elections 2014

Difficult home stretch for National Front’s parliamentary group

Marine Le Pen, Leader of the French National Front

Despite tensions caused by Jean-Marie Le Pen’s most recent anti-Semitic outburst, the National Front is picking up the tempo on talks to form a political group in the European Parliament. EurActiv France reports.

The first plenary session of the European Parliament is fast approaching, and negotiations are speeding up between different parties to form political groups.

The National Front has presented its main partners: Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom from the Netherlands, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), Italy’s Northern League and the Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang party. The search continues for the extra two EU member states necessary to form a political group.

Social networking websites were busy yesterday (10 June) with rumours of final plans for the far-right’s political group.

The National Front refused to comment on the future group when contacted by EurActiv, simply saying that “rumours” were circulating on the matter.

Vlaams Belang was reluctant to comment. “The five main parties held numerous meetings this week,” said Gerolf Annemans, member of the Belgian far-right party. “It is too early to make a statement. I cannot confirm nor deny rumours on the composition of the group,” he added.

If the far right group can be formed it will qualify for EU funding of about €22 million, excluding MEP salaries and expenses. With those taken into account, the taxpayer’s bill is close to €50 million.

>> Read: After election success, far right parties line up for EU money in Parliament

Jean-Marie Le Pen’s gaffe

Another matter came to disturb the National Front’s search for parliamentary partners this week. The Honorary Chairman of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made anti-Semitic remarks about French celebrities in response to criticisms towards his party. In a video series called “Journal de Bord” which is published on the National Front’s website every week, Le Pen reacted to his critics with: “We’ll do an oven load next time.”

>> Read:  Le Pen caught in new anti-Semitism row

His daughter, Marine Le Pen, described this as a “political gaffe”. Calls for his retirement could be heard from the National Front own bench, including from the second in command, Florian Philippot, and MEP Gilbert Collard.

Missed out on the Scandinavians

The anti-Semitic image of the National Front has already led to the loss of potential partners in the European Parliament. The Danish People’s Party (DPP) quickly distanced itself from Marine Le Pen’s party after the European elections. The Finns Party followed in their footsteps and left Nigel Farage’s group to join the conservative ECR.

The Swedish Democrats, who are the National Front’s natural allies and sat next to them in the European Alliance for Freedom, have also rejected any future alliances with the French party.

“We will not join this group”, said Martin Kinnunen, press secretary of the Swedish far-right party. “We are not interested,” he added.

Hello Eastern Europe?

The two missing partners could be found in Eastern Europe.

Asked by EurActiv France, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, head of the Polish KNP party, confirmed that his Eurosceptic party were in talks with “all European Parliament parties who were not yet affiliated to any group.” There is little doubt that the Front National has been involved in these talks.

Other potential allies include the Lithuanian Order and Justice Party but a spokesman for their Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group denied they were leaving. 

Background

Eurosceptic parties around Europe have shown their willingness to act on a European level. The controversial Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders and leader of the extreme-right Front national in France, Marine Le Pen, have led the initiative to form a new group in the European Parliament, together with like-minded parties.

Other parties, including the British UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the Danish Popular Party, rejected the proposition outright.

Eurosceptic political parties are blossoming in many European countries, but their backgrounds and causes are very different. Analysts have argued that even though the next Parliament could have a much higher number of eurosceptic, even populist MEPs, they have a smaller chance of forming a coherent bloc.