Laure Ferrari, EU election candidate for the far-right party Arise the Republic (Debout la République), entered politics after an unexpected encounter with Nigel Farage, the firebrand eurosceptic Briton. She is profiled in the third part of a series looking at the French election candidates, by EurActiv France.
Laure Ferrari decided to enter politics after an unexpected encounter with two famous Eurosceptic MEPs, Britain's Godfrey Bloom (independent) and Nigel Farage (UKIP).
"At the time in 2007, I was working in a restaurant in Strasbourg. I met these two MEPs and we started talking about politics," she told EurActiv France.
"The two Brits have no hierarchy and neither of them comes from a political background," she explained.
There was a clear political affinity between the charismatic UKIP leader and the young woman, and what started as a by-chance meeting quickly turned into collaboration. Laure Ferrari started working with Nigel Farage in the European Parliament, where she was head of public relations for the British delegation to the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, EFD, which is co-chaired by Farage.
"Everyone says that I am Nigel Farage's parliamentary assistant, but this is not true! I was head of public relations," Ferrari claimed.
Stroke of luck
Laure Ferrari never thought she would have the chance to spend seven years in the European Parliament or run for the 2014 EU elections for the French far-right party, Arise the Republic. "Before 2005, I hadn't a clue about politics," she said. "For me, it was carried out by old men who sat around talking."
Her total disinterest transformed during the 2005 French referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. "I said to myself: the EU is going behind the backs of European citizens here. I was always a bit of a rebel," she said.
"What I find repelling about the European Union is that it imposes a vision that does not correspond to that of the European citizens!" she continued.
Laure Ferrari, from the northwestern French town of Épinal, studied English at the University of Strasbourg, and then spent two years doing a master’s degree in communications.
After her studies, she opened a cloths shop in Strasbourg called ‘Urban Flavor’. This surprising decision is explained by a longing to be independent. "I couldn't see myself working for someone else. Therefore I set out on my own and got a bank loan to buy the business," she said.
Ferrari ran the shop for two years. She soon realised that independence comes at a price. "I launched the business during the economic crisis and realised that working in this sector turned out to be.... quite lonely! "Financial difficulties pushed her to work as a waitress in order to "round off the end of the month."
Ferrari has no family background that compelled her to join a Eurosceptic party. "I would say my dad was a gaullist and my mother... cannot be categorised, although she always considered herself a bit to the left", said the young woman, whose family own a commercial road haulage company.
Close Franco-UK ties
Laure Ferrari discovered Arise the Republic whilst working at the European Parliament. "In 2011, I met Nicolas-Dupont Aignan, who I did not know at all! I was instantly won over by his personality and political programme," said Ferrari.
Hereafter, she organised meetings between both Eurosceptic party leaders. "The ball started rolling. Now, they are like two peas in a pod!" she said. Since then, meetings and cooperation between the two political figures have grown.
"I have also tried to reach out to the German Eurosceptic party, Alternative für Deutschland(AfD). However, relations with them will not be possible until after the elections."
Uneasy label: 'extreme'
Despite her negative views of the EU, Laure Ferrari refuses to be classified as far-right or be compared to the National Front, France's most popular far-right party. This frequent comparison makes her feel uneasy. "We must not forget that there are plenty of left-wing parties that classify themselves as eurosceptic," she emphasised.
"When I was younger, I took part in protests against the National Front when Marie Le Pen made to it the second round of the French presidential elections in 2002," she said. "Some of their ideas, like those regarding the death penalty and immigration, disgust me."
However, their campaign ideas bear striking resemblance. “Even on Europe, the National Front bases many of their ideas on us, not the other way around,” claimed the want-to-be MEP.
Ferrari does not believe in abolishing the EU. Although Arise the Republic advocates an EU exit, the European Council is a positive component of the Union. Exiting the single currency and bringing back the French Franc also features in their political programme, but the Euro would remain as an “international currency”.
- 25 May : European Elections held in France