French nationalist party leader Marine Le Pen welcomes her Dutch counterpart Geert Wilders’ proposal to join forces in next year’s European parliamentary elections. “All patriotic parties that fight for their identity, fight for sovereignty, should unite in the European elections,” she told Dutch state broadcaster NOS on Tuesday.
Wilders, a Euroskeptic and anti-Islam politician whose Freedom Party outpolled both the ruling Labor and liberal parties in a recent survey, had long shunned affiliation with other anti-immigration parties in Europe.
But he told the AD newspaper last month that “much has changed” in the Front national. “Marine Le Pen has broken with the past. What’s important for me is that it’s distanced itself from anything to do with antisemitism,” he said.
Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, who founded and long led the party, made antisemitic remarks throughout his political career and opposes gay marriage. Wilders strongly supports both Israel and minority rights, claiming both are threatened by Islam.
Le Pen and Wilders resist immigration especially from Muslim countries, but have emphasized their Euroskepticism in recent years as popular dissatisfaction with the sovereign debt crisis and austerity mounted.
In a speech in Los Angeles, California last month, Wilders cited the rise of Euroskeptic parties like his own as proof that a “new patriotism” is emerging on the continent, one that could simultaneously “liberate the nations of Europe” from the European Union and fend off what he considers the Islamization of Western culture.
He added in the AD interview last month, “If we join our forces, we can get much done.”
The Front national and Freedom Party are currently unaffiliated in the European Parliament. With three and four seats respectively, their influence on policymaking is limited.
Likeminded parties, such as Denmark’s People’s Party, Italy’s Lega Nord and Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party, belong to the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group which has less than 5 percent of the seats. It also includes socially conservative Polish and Slovak parties whose views on abortion, euthanasia and gay rights are contrary to Wilders’.
The Dutch politician also met Flemish nationalist Filip Dewinter in Antwerp on Friday to discuss cooperation, but no formal agreement between them was reached.