Marine Le Pen’s party is no longer making calls to leave the EU or abandon the euro. Instead, the party is attempting to renew itself with a nationalist but locally anchored narrative. EURACTIV France reports.
Rassemblement National has taken a surprise U-turn regarding its stance on the EU. Previously a staunch defender of Frexit and vastly in favour of exiting the eurozone, Le Pen’s party is now rushing into the European election campaign in local fashion.
“We have made changes in the last two years,” said Le Pen. “The situation of isolation that we had in Europe is now over. We didn’t have much choice: either we had to submit [to the EU] or we had to leave it. But now we have allies,” explained Le Pen.
The Rassemblement National already has allies, some of which are already at the EU Parliament. “We’re not starting from scratch,” said Marine Le Pen.
But today’s objective is to constitute “a very large sovereigntist group in the EU Parliament,” a mission for which Italy’s Matteo Salvini has been mandated, said the far-right leader. And in that regard, “we are much more advanced than Mr. Macron.”
Le Pen’s Rassemblement National is neck and neck with Macron’s la République en Marche (LREM) in the polls.
At a Strasbourg press conference on the evening of 15 April, the far-right party presented the “Manifesto for a Europe of Nations”. Running to about a hundred pages, it redefines the doctrine of the Rassemblement National weeks before the EU elections on 26 May.
Jordan Bardella, who tops the far-right party’s EU list, Le Pen, and outgoing MEP Nicolas Bay presented another document titled “For a Europe of Nations and Peoples,” a text that lays out concrete proposals for the upcoming EU elections.
Localism vs. globalism
To leave behind the rift between populists and progressives led by Macron’s LREM, Rassemblement National just created a new one. It now focuses on globalisation and ecology, an issue the party has long neglected.
“We want to produce as many things as we can reasonably produce,” summed up Jordan Barella during a Strasbourg press conference.
With the implementation of economic patriotism aimed at defending “local, ecological and socially responsible production,” Rassemblement National aims to defend “localism”, which is essentially opposed to globalisation and free trade advocated by the currrent EU, explained Le Pen.
Among the concrete proposals, Rassemblement National wants to prioritise public spending in favour of French companies and farmers and wishes to create a concept of national corporate responsibility.
Such a tool would consist of financially incentivising French companies that do not use posted workers, do not relocate, and carefully choose their subcontractors.
Another proposal is the implementation of an ecological customs barrier at the EU’s doorstep, which should make it possible to defend oneself against competing products that are less environmentally friendly.
This idea is similar to the idea of a carbon tax at the border, which is supported by several political parties, including the French right-wing party Les Républicains and Macron’s LREM.
Finally, the abolition of the Posting of Workers Directive, also supported by the right-wing party Debout La France, is on the party’s agenda: “We are not contesting the principle of a single market but the unfair competition created at that level, particularly with eastern European countries,” reminded Nicolas Bay.
Europe of civilisations
Rassemblement National’s language has not changed on its important and recurrent issues such as the restoration of national borders, putting a stop to migration and the EU’s enlargement to Turkey and the Balkans.
This is also the case for the language used about the respect for nation states. “What is Europe? A common civilisation that includes the diversity and uniqueness of its nation states,” stressed Jordan Bardella in his introductory speech.
If the idea of Frexit is no longer on the agenda, the EU’s transformation into a Europe of nations is something that is indispensable for Marine Le Pen’s party. As it considers the EU Commission “undemocratic”, the party is calling for it to be replaced by a normative body in charge of ensuring that EU legislation is being applied.
Legislative initiative – now in the hands of the Commission – is to be placed in the hands of the Council of the EU, which represents EU member states. “The EU Commission has legislative initiative, even if it has the least democratic legitimacy,” said Nicolas Bay.
This new institutional organisation would “require treaties to be renegotiated,” the far-right party acknowledged. This is a thorny issue as it requires unanimity among all EU leaders. “But the fact that we have to sit at the negotiating table with the other heads of state is not an obstacle,” said Bay.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]