Le Pen and Wilders unite to form eurosceptic alliance
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France’s Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party, and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, who heads the nationalist Party for Freedom, forged an alliance on Wednesday to undermine the European Parliament from within.
Two of Europe’s most influential far-right politicians, France’s Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, forged an alliance on Wednesday to undermine the European Parliament from within.
The move was unveiled at a joint news conference in the Netherlands capital The Hague and comes amid rising voter frustration with mainstream politics and the EU ahead of elections next May for the European Parliament.
"We have taken a decision to ally ourselves with other patriots willing to work within the same dynamic," said Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front party.
Wilders, who heads the Netherland’s Party for Freedom (PVV) and is known for his strong Eurosceptic and nationalist views, said that the alliance marked the “start of the liberation of Europe from the monster of Brussels".
"Working together, we want to repatriate the ability to decide ourselves how we control our borders, how we control our money and our economy," he said.
In the past, however, Europe’s nationalist parties have struggled to form enduring alliances. At least 25 members are needed to form a group in the EU Assembly and at least one-quarter of the EU’s 28 states must be represented.
If Le Pen and Wilders succeed in forming an official European political group, they would benefit from subsidies, offices, a communication budget, seats on committees and speaking time in parliament proportional to their number.
Protest against 'dangerous alliance'
Around 20 people gathered outside the Dutch parliament at The Hague to protest against Le Pen and Wilders’ meeting, banging drums and blowing air horns.
"We are here to protest against racism, which is what both Le Pen and Wilders' parties stand for," said a protester who asked not to be named, brandishing a placard with Le Pen's face covered by a no-entry sign.
"This alliance is dangerous," said demonstrator Ewout van den Berg, 26. "We're against Wilders, against Le Pen and against all those who want to polarise society."
A poll last month found that Le Pen’s National Front was on track to win more votes than any other French party in European parliament elections next May, fuelling mounting fears about the rise of the far-right in Europe.
Meanwhile, Wilders’ Freedom Party, which slumped in last year’s general election and has lost several members because of infighting, has since bounced back to take the lead in Dutch opinion polls.
The anti-mass immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) of Nigel Farage reaffirmed it would not ally with Le Pen’s party.
“It’s cut and dry. There isn’t going to be any alliance with the Front National and we’re not going to sit in the same parliamentary group as them in the European Parliament,” a UKIP spokesman said.
Le Pen, a tough-talking former lawyer, invited Wilders to Paris earlier this year to persuade him to join the European Alliance for Freedom, an existing group of Eurosceptic and nationalist parties.
So far, his party has not joined the grouping, which includes Belgium’s far-right Vlaams Belang and Austria’s anti-immigrant Freedom Party.
Le Pen has sought to rid her party of overt neo-Nazis and racists and has distanced herself from the anti-Semitic remarks of her father. But a string of scandals over racism among party members has in recent weeks embarrassed the party.
A poll by Dutch current affairs program Een Vandaag found that 75 percent of Freedom Party voters nonetheless approved of Wilders meeting Le Pen, who he introduced to reporters as a friend.
Wilders, who is known for his anti-Islam views, has been funded by The Middle East Forum, a pro-Israeli think tank based in Philadelphia. The group funded Wilders’ legal defence in 2010 and 2011 against Dutch charges of inciting racial hatred.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
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