National Front forms bloc group in European Parliament

Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and far-right leaders form bloc a year after Eurosceptic surge in EU elections

France’s National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen holds a press conference at the European Parliament on Tuesday to announce a new grouping of European far-right parties. Photograph: AFP Photo/ Emmanuel Dunand

France’s National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen holds a press conference at the European Parliament on Tuesday to announce a new grouping of European far-right parties. Photograph: AFP Photo/ Emmanuel Dunand

 

Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and far-right leaders from Italy, Austria and Belgium have combined to form a common bloc in the European Parliament, a year after a Eurosceptic surge in EU elections.

Splits among parties opposed to the EU and mass immigration, which won 12 percent of seats last May, saw the UK Independence Party form one alliance. But Ms Le Pen’s French National Front and Mr Wilders’s Dutch Freedom Party fell short of members needed to qualify for the powers and funding that come with bloc status.

A key hurdle was a need to include deputies from seven EU states.

Ms Le Pen, who will lead the new Europe of Nations and Freedom bloc, said the hurdle was now overcome with the involvement of two Poles and British member Janice Atkinson, who was expelled from Ukip over an expenses scandal in March.

“The European Union is working to destroy the nation and we are here to defend our people,” Ms Le Pen told a news conference on Tuesday.

Ms Le Pen’s group will feature 39 of the chamber’s 751 members

Mr Wilders said the bloc would fight the “Islamisation” of Europe.

Ukip’s Nigel Farage, leader of the 45-strong Europe of Freedom and Democracy bloc, has rejected past overtures from Ms Le Pen and Mr Wilders, citing notably the National Front’s historic anti-Semitism.

The big bloc

The new bloc comprises the French National Front, the Dutch Freedom Party, Italy’s Northern League, the Austrian Freedom Party once led by Jörg Haider, the Flemish nationalists of Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, Poland’s Congress of the New Right and Atkinson.

Hungary’s Jobbik and the Greek Golden Dawn, with three seats each, are now the main far-right parties not in a united group.

Parliamentary groups are accorded significant political and financial benefits, with campaign funding, committee chairs and a larger role in the management of parliamentary business.

Ms Atkinson, whose chief- of-staff was recorded by a newspaper asking for an inflated restaurant bill in order to claim expenses from the European Parliament, told the news conference she would fight for her constituents to “get our country back”.

The European Network Against Racism complained that the new bloc would receive more public funding to promote their ideas.

“This should set alarm bells ringing for mainstream parties to finally end the escalation of toxic narratives,” the network said. – (Reuters)