France’s Le Pen urges show of nationalist force in European elections

French far-right political party National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen arrives at the statue of Joan of Arc during the party's traditional May Day in Cannes, southern France, 01 May 2018. [EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER]

France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen urged Europe’s populist parties to unite against a liberal establishment in next year’s European elections, as she made a combative return to the spotlight after her bruising election defeat last year.

In a speech on Sunday to supporters of her National Rally party in the southern town of Fréjus, Le Pen said her party would campaign for May’s European Parliament elections “in liaison” with allies in its Europe of Nations and Freedom party.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron has pitched the vote as an open battle between anti-immigrant populists like the National Rally and pro-European Union progressives like himself.

“In France, our objective is to beat Macron,” she said to a chorus of cheers in the southern bastion of far-right support.

Nationalists gaining strength “everywhere” in Europe

“In Europe, it is to build with our allies, the other (nationalist) groups, a majority that makes a break from the decaying European Union and moves towards a cooperation of nations which respect each other’s diversity and identity.”

Le Pen hailed what she saw as a “victory for pro-nationals everywhere” in Europe, especially “in Hungary, Poland and Austria, [where] our ideas are already in power”. Together, these parties can imposed another idea of Europe, she said.

“The globalist parenthesis is closing in. It’s good for the world, good for the planet, good for people.”

Salvini sees populist-conservative coalition guiding the new EU Commission

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who also leads the far-right League party, said on Tuesday (11 September) he wants the new European Commission to be led by conservatives and populists.

Far right divided

Le Pen wants to force Brussels to hand back powers to nation states, an outcome supporters of the EU say would sound the death knell for Europe’s political and monetary union.

Europe’s populists have scored election successes from Italy to Sweden and from Austria to Hungary, yet uniting the eurosceptic parties may prove difficult.

Previous attempts to unite the far right have produced little and Le Pen offered no new answers, reiterating her vision of a Union of European Nations whose member states would cooperate but regain their national sovereignty.

Salvini and Orbán launch anti-immigration manifesto ahead of EU elections

Hungary’s illiberal Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Italy’s hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini launched Tuesday (28 August) an anti-migration manifesto aiming at next year’s European parliament elections, targeting a common enemy.

Le Pen has struggled to unite her party and assert her leadership since she was soundly beaten by Macron in last year’s presidential run-off vote.

A poll last week of voter intentions for the May election showed Le Pen’s party gaining ground to stand neck-and-neck with Macron’s centrist LREM.

On Sunday she attacked Macron’s first 16 months in office, but saved her toughest words for France and Europe’s immigration policy and praised Matteo Salvini, Italy’s anti-immigrant interior minister.

“With us, France will once again control its borders,” she said.

Macron's party neck-and-neck with far-right in 2019 EU election opinion poll

French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist LREM party is neck-and-neck with the far-right Rassemblement National, formerly the National Front, for the May 2019 European Parliament elections, according to poll results published on Thursday (13 September).

Subscribe to our newsletters