Marine Le Pen has presented her new Polish and British allies, who will be propping up her group in the European Parliament. But the details of their political programme are yet to be defined. EURACTIV France reports.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen announced the formation of the new Europe of Nations and Freedoms (ENF) group in the European Parliament, and presented her new collaborators at a press conference in Brussels on Tuesday (16 June) morning.
“We have only just created the group, now we have to put our heads together,” a National Front MEP said.
The Europe of Nations and Freedoms group will be co-presided by Marine Le Pen and Marcel de Graaff, of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV). The group’s other parties are the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), Italy’s Northern League and the Belgian Vlaams Belang.
But it was the last-minute addition of two Polish MEPs from the racist KNP, and former UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson, that made the formation of the group possible.
In joining the group, the two Polish MEPs cut their ties with their party leader, Janusz Korwin-Mikke. The NF had previously ruled out forming a group with the KNP chief, whose views on issues as diverse as the Holocaust, rape and race were considered too extreme.
Departure of Jean-Marie Le Pen a deciding factor
Atkinson said that “the exclusion of Jean-Marie Le Pen from the National Front helped”. The MEP, who was expelled from UKIP for fiddling her expense accounts, said she was delighted to be a part of a “historic moment”.
She also said she had been present at UKIP meetings where the question of whether to join forces with the NF had been raised, and that she had more in common with the NF than with the Five Star Movement, which supported UKIP in forming the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group.
Who’s in and who’s out
Ludovic de Danne, the international affairs advisor to Le Pen, said he was convinced that the new group would be “an example and a solution for all of Europe’s parties”. The unelected de Danne was the principle architect of the ENF, along with National Front MEP Aymeric Chauprade, who has yet to officially join it.
Currently in Asia, Chauprade has so far been unable to sign the necessary paperwork.
Several MEPs from the NF delegation are not members of the new group, including Bruno Gollnish, who chose not to join, Jean-Marie Le Pen, whom nobody asked, and Joëlle Bergeron, who joined the EFDD group shortly after the elections in 2014.
Top priority: dissolving the eurozone
While the political programme Europe of Nations and Freedoms group is still undefined, it has already committed to strive for the dissolution of the eurozone.
“I think the negotiated exit of Greece would be better than brutally throwing them back into the eurozone, which is stupid and damaging,” Marine Le Pen said.
She criticised the current solution, which she said would lead “to a Cypriot-style scenario, where money would be taken directly from the Greeks’ bank accounts”. She added that “savers have every reason to fear for their savings in the eurozone”.
No plans to dissolve the European Union were mentioned at the press conference.
Commenting on the news, the UK’s Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said:"This is a disgraceful decision by a disgraced MEP. The people of the South East region she represents will undoubtedly be shocked by this move. Janice Atkinson should do the honourable thing and resign, not prop up a group of Europe's most hateful and far-right parties."
The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) said: “The growing influence of parties propagating xenophobic and racist ideas and policies in the European Parliament runs the risk of jeopardising the adoption of progressive measures to reduce inequalities. Even if these political groups would face a majority opposition, this could prevent, or at least considerably delay, the adoption of progressive policies and laws, especially in the field of migration and equality.”
The EFDD group issued a statement, stating: "Former Tory, Janice Atkinson has been expelled from UKIP in March and suspended from the EFDD Group in the European Parliament. Whatever she does is beyond our control."
Commenting on the formation of a new far right group in the European Parliament, GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer, said,"The extreme right gathering around Marine Le Pen have finally succeeded in forming a political group in the European Parliament with more opportunities to spread their nationalist and discriminatory slogans. That makes it even more important for us to take resolute actions against the backward looking, nationalist and anti-social policies of the extreme right. The democratic forces in the EP cannot overlook the threat that this new group can pose to minorities across Europe, despite its facelift. The conservative EPP, especially, has to prove with whom they want to cooperate in the future."
At least 25 MEPs from seven different countries are needed to form a political group, which then qualifies for funding and more influence in the European Parliament.
Marine Le Pen failed to form a group after the European elections last year, despite a surge in support for far right parties. Her party topped the French vote, returning 24 MEPs.
But last night she announced that she had finally succeeded in meeting the threshold.
According to research by think tank Open Europe, based on 38 MEPs, the new group could apply for:
- an annual grant of €2,974,718.39 to set up and run the new group;
- a grant for a linked pan-European political party;
- a grant for a linked political foundation or think tank;
- amounting to €4,442,759.83 every year;
- or about €17.5 million over the remaining four years of Parliament's term.