Marine Le Pen Forms Far Right Bloc In European Parliament

Led by Marianne Le Pen, the head of France’s National Front, far right parties in the European Parliament have formed a coalition:

PARIS — More than a year after populist, far-right parties surged in elections for the European Parliament, several of them announced on Tuesday that they had finally banded together with the goal of raising their political profile.

The new far-right bloc will be led by Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s National Front, who along with like-minded politicians has long seen the European Parliament as a useful platform to promote an anti-immigration agenda and to rail against European Union institutions and the accumulation of power in Brussels.

“We will be a political force that cannot be compared to our previous situation,” Ms. Le Pen said at a news conference in Brussels with Geert Wilders, from the Dutch Party for Freedom, and the other far-right leaders who will be working with her.

Mr. Wilders and Ms. Le Pen have been close allies over the last several years.

“This is D-Day,” Mr. Wilders said at the news conference. “This is the beginning of our liberation.”

The bloc’s formation comes atop a host of other worries for the European Union, in particular the prospect of what is known as “Grexit” and “Brexit” — the withdrawal of Greece or Britain from the union, each for a completely different reason. Greece appears to be on the verge of defaulting on billions of dollars in loans and has balked at demands from its creditors. In Britain, many question whether it is to their benefit to remain part of the union.

Ms. Le Pen had been trying to form a group for more than a year since her party won 23 seats in last year’s European Parliament election. Her failure to do so until now had been a blow to her ambition to extend her party’s influence. However, seeking to soften her party’s image, she also vowed not to join with parties whose reputations are even more extreme than that of her National Front.

They include Greece’s Golden Dawn, which has a reputation for violence, and Hungary’s Jobbik party, which has made anti-Semitic statements. Both are represented in the European Parliament.

The new bloc will not include them, but it will contain far-right representatives from seven countries. Their presence reflects the widespread gains that fringe parties have made in Europe because of discontent with troubled economies, with migration pressures, with growing numbers of Muslims and with what is seen as a cumbersome and distant bureaucracy in Brussels.

Ms. Le Pen’s new group includes at least 36 members of the Parliament, including ones from the National Front, Austria’s Freedom Party, Italy’s Northern League, the Belgian Flemish Interest Party and the far-right Polish party, as well as a British member of the European Parliament who left the United Kingdom Independence Party.

The bloc, which is known as a political group under European Union rules, will go by the name Europe of Nations and Freedoms. Under the rules, a group must have at least 25 members and include representatives from seven nations. The main reasons formal groups organize is to become eligible for funding and to gain influence, speaking time in the European Parliament and a chance to lead committees, said Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive of the European Policy Center in Brussels.

For the far right, the access to money is the main thing, Mr. Zuleeg said. “The far-right extremist groups don’t use the time they have in the Parliament because, at least in principle, they are against the whole principle of a parliament because it’s part of the hated European project,” he said.

Le Pen, of course, has been trying to soften the image of her party for several years now, most noticeably by essentially forcing her father Jean Marie Le Pen out of power in France and, now, banning him from having any connection to the Brussels power bloc she has formed. In substance, of course, the National Front of Marine Le Pen isn’t all that different from what it was under her father when it comes to policy positions. The question is whether her efforts to put a kinder face on the party’s harsh, far right rhetoric, will make a difference electorally. While we’ll have to wait until the next French elections to see that, the fact that her party did so well in last year’s elections for the European Parliament is at least some indication of the kind of potential it has to become a political force in French domestic politics. The formation of this bloc in Brussels, which will no doubt exploit much of the anti-European Union sentiment that is prevalent these days, is another step in that process.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    I’ve never been clear on just how radical Le Pen’s people are. Are they just opposed to immigration? Anyone know?

  2. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Except for immigration, if Marine Le Pen were a a US Representative she would safely be in the ideological center of the Tea Party.

    Where she would be to the the left of the Republicans on that issue.

    The press treats the fact that “far right”political parties take 20% of some rando Euro country vote as scandalous and eye-opening, and yet ignores that one of the two major American political has gone off the rails, is institutionally incapable of governing, and exists solely as rhetorical bomb-throwers.

    Beyond the run-up to the Iraq War, this is the most significant event that the press has totally, systemically mischaracterized in my adult life.

    We have a growing far right party in this country right now and the press still treats them like they’re competent adults like Poppy Bush and his crowd.

    The failure to acknowledge the fact that the Republicans have become far more Right than they were just 20 years ago is truly puzzling.

    The common idea is that the press are supposed to be ink-stained wretches agitating for the common folk, but the core of the Washington press treats access as that which cannot be bested. That access to the movers and players is the best they can do and the best they can ever do.

    One cannot criticize one half of their clients as going totally bonkers without losing access to one half of their clients. We now have PR folks with a rapidly constricting editorial and fact checking staff. They write about clients and not stories.

    I think that the contraction of the old-school media establishment is a major contributing factor. People who keep jobs in a contracting / collapsing trade are not rabble-rousers, they are not the truth tellers, and they are utterly petrified that they won’t have a job tomorrow. The cranky ones got sacked in the first round of lay-offs, and only the utterly supine have made it thus far.

    Access has replaced Truth as the motivation for the Washington press. Access means that you’ll have a paying job tomorrow. Critical people don’t have access.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    @de stijl:

    All I can answer is: yep.

  4. Rob Prather says:

    @de stijl: What you say about the press is correct. A few years ago Norman Ornstein, and a guy whose name I can’t remember, wrote a truthful op-ed that said the Republicans and tea party were the reason for disfunction and they’ve essentially been banned from network news shows. They used to be on all the time.

    The piece as I recall was quite good and said that the tea party folks rejected common understanding of facts and couldn’t be reasoned with. Completely true.

  5. walt moffett says:

    My take is that the National Front is now anti-immigration and globalization e.g French jobs for the native born, social spending only for native born 9but otherwise left untouched), head cracking policing of immigrants, strict enforcement of existing anticlerical laws,

    In American terms, the party very roughly might considered conservative Southern Democrats (who tend to be v rare birds) or moderate New England Republicans (also v. rare) how ever a few notches to the left of either

  6. MarkedMan says:

    The European rise of a photo-fascist party demonizing “the other” as inferior and unclean and pounding on about keeping the homeland pure? Check, check, and check.

  7. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’m pretty sure that Ted Cruz’ package just moved a little bit. Just sayin’.

    Have you ever pictured what Cruz would look like with a little bitty mustache centered under his nose? As a thought experiment? Just askin’.

  8. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    photo-fascist

    I love auto-correct happy accidents.

    Leni Riefenstahl was a photo-fascist.

  9. Andre Kenji says:

    Marine Le Pen would be considered a Communist by the GOP. It´s hard to find someone in International Politics that´s it´s to the Right of the average GOP politician.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl:

    Leni Riefenstahl was a photo-fascist

    Points for speed!

    and you were right about autocorrect.

  11. de stijl says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    It’s hard to find someone in International Politics that’s to the Right of the average GOP politician.

    Outside of Russia and a few remnants of the Soviet Empire. Maybe Uganda.

    Our “conservative” party has become radically reactionary. And it wasn’t a creeping generational thing but a BA-BANG thing. And our press, the remainder of our press, ignores it because they want to have access.

    We have to walk around and pretend that it isn’t happening because pointing it out would somehow be rude or disrespectful. We’re a dysfunctional family. Dad has suddenly gone totally paranoid nuts and Mom wants to make sure we don’t mention it because it would just set him off and we don’t want that, do we?

  12. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    you were right about autocorrect

    One would think that a truly smart phone would get that proto and photo are two very different concepts.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Rob Prather: Thomas Mann. It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.

    I’m reminded of a story of a focus group project a Dem organization ran. They’d ask, would you vote for Republican so-and-so if he favored this policy? Oh no, that’s terrible. Here’s a copy of his statement supporting so-and so, now would you vote for him? Sure. What? Why? Oh he’s a good guy, he wouldn’t really do that.

    It’s how the Reaganites got away with Iran-Contra. Nobody believed they could do the outrageous, stupid things they in fact did do.

    And our both-sides-do-it, he-said-she-said, VSP press isn’t about to report just how far off the rails we’ve gone.