Right-wing parties rally under Libertas banner

 

JOY IS not an emotion one usually associates with Viscount Philippe de Villiers, the right-wing French politician who has built his career on fear-mongering over the influx of Muslim immigrants and opposition to what he calls the “oligarchs and commissars” of Brussels.

But “joy” was the word Mr de Villiers used to describe the launching of a joint European parliamentary election campaign uniting his Movement for France (MPF) and Frédéric Nihous’s Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Tradition (CPNT) party under the Libertas.eu banner yesterday.

Libertas founder Declan Ganley, whom Mr de Villiers called “our hero”, proudly watched over the ceremony.

Mr de Villiers delivered a romantic version of Mr Ganley’s alleged heroism. “They fobbed a repeat of the constitution on us, and one man rose up, an Irish businessman who won the support of the people.”

Mr de Villiers’s tone veered into sarcasm, his speciality. The good people of Ireland were in for a surprise, he said. “When people vote No, they must be forced to vote again.”

Hence the importance of June’s European elections. Since 26 EU countries were deprived of a vote on Lisbon, “this European election must replace the referendum people didn’t have”.

Mr de Villiers mingled grievances against Europe and President Nicolas Sarkozy. Europe “must draw its borders, once and for all, without Turkey”, he said. He complained that Mr Sarkozy has allowed negotiations on Turkish accession to proceed on 10 of 35 chapters. And Mr Sarkozy did away with a constitutional provision requiring a French referendum on Turkish accession.

Then it was time for a tirade against “the crazy madmen who continue stealing people’s identity and traditions”. Europe was preparing regulations that would make rosé wine by mixing red and white, Mr de Villiers claimed. And Europe wanted to impose health warnings on camembert cheese! Standing beside Mr Ganley, champion of free markets, Mr de Villiers the protectionist pleaded for “European preference, so that Europe can fight outsourcing and the transfer of our means of production to China”.

Still standing beside Mr Ganley, the defence contractor who has just named four former senior defence officials from the US and Britain to the board of his company, Mr de Villiers condemned Mr Sarkozy’s announcement yesterday that he is bringing France back into the integrated military command of Nato. “The return to Nato is the end of the independence of France. It is the end of the very idea of European defence.”

Mr Ganley took the floor, calling France “the beating heart of Europe”. But where Mr de Villiers voiced grievances, Mr Ganley incited them.

If the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, he said, there will never be another referendum.

“The small little bit of power you have will be taken away from you!” Mr Ganley harangued the small crowd of journalists as if they were supporters at a rally. “These elites in Brussels have silenced the French people. They ignored you completely! They point at the people of France and the Netherlands and Ireland and they say, ‘There is something wrong with you. You are ignorant. You are not European.’”

It was time for people to “tell the elites in Brussels, ‘No. There is something wrong with you.’”

Paul-Marie Coûteaux, one of three MEPs elected on Mr de Villiers’s list five years ago, created a storm by denouncing the party’s alliance with Mr Ganley on the eve of the launch.

Mr Coûteaux accused Mr Ganley of supporting the election of a president of Europe by universal suffrage, Turkish accession to the EU and Nato membership for all European states.

Mr Ganley confounded several sources who had the strong impression that he supported Turkey’s EU application and Nato.

“I completely agree on Turkey,” he said. “On the matter of Nato, this is a decision that must be made at member-state level. Ireland is neutral.”

(In an article he published in the US in 2003, Mr Ganley attacked the constitutional treaty on the grounds it would damage the traditional defence relationship between Europe and the US.)

So how much was Libertas contributing to Mr de Villiers’s and Mr Nihous’s European campaigns? “Not one centime!” he protested, denouncing “unhealthy, malignant rumours” and “calumny”. “Not a sou!” added Mr Nihous. When I asked Mr Ganley whether Libertas had offered Swedish party Junilistan €900,000 to campaign under his party’s name, he answered with a sharp “No” and walked away.