Dutch Freedom Party Leader Says Euroskeptic Bloc Failed

Geert Wilders says cooperating with the Polish Congress of the New Right would have been “a bridge too far.”

French and Dutch nationalist party leaders Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders in The Hague, November 13
French and Dutch nationalist party leaders Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders in The Hague, November 13 (AP/Peter Dejong)

Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders admitted on Tuesday his and France’s Marine Le Pen’s attempts to form a second Euroskeptic bloc in the European Parliament had failed.

Last week, Britain’s Nigel Farage found enough allies to continue his group, Europe of Freedom and Democracy, thanks to the defection of one member from Le Pen’s Front national.

Like Le Pen and Wilders, Farage advocates a withdrawal from the European Union for his country but unlike those other party leaders, he is not strongly opposed to immigration nor particularly critical of Islam.

Wilders, who rose to prominence in the Netherlands as an Islam critic before becoming Euroskeptic, told Dutch media his Freedom Party was unwilling to form a European group “at any price.” He added that cooperating with the conservative Congress of the New Right from Poland would have been “a bridge too far.”

The party’s leader, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, was seen meeting with Le Pen, Wilders and their allies in Brussels last week, feeding speculation that he would join their group — even if Korwin-Mikke’s views on many issues are almost totally opposed to theirs. He is a libertarian whereas Le Pen and Wilders are protectionists and seek to maintain the welfare state. Like Le Pen, he opposes gay marriage but Wilders is a strong advocate for gay rights.

Korwin-Mikke caused a stir last year when he suggested that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler might not have been aware of the Holocaust.

Wilders — who considers himself a champion of Europe’s Judeo-Christian traditions and an ally of Israel’s — has battled accusations of antisemitism before, especially after he announced his alliance with Le Pen’s Front national. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who led the party until early 2011, has made shocking antisemitic and racist remarks throughout his political career.

His affiliation with the Front discredited Wilders in the eyes of moderately Euroskeptic voters. Despite opinion polls predicting he would win the European election in the Netherlands, Wilders ended up gaining no seats and placed behind two centrist, pro-European parties.

His European alliances and suggestion in March that the Freedom Party would “take care” of getting “fewer Moroccans” in the country also caused several of Wilders’ lawmakers and party officials to resign. Two announced the creation of a competing party this weekend. Adding Korwin-Mikke to his European group could have cost Wilders even more support at home.

Before May’s election, the Austrian Freedom Party and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang declared their allegiance to Le Pen and Wilders. They won five seats between them. Italy’s separatist Lega Nord also left Farage’s group to join the new bloc, before losing four of its nine seats, leaving the nationalists members from two countries short to be recognized as a bloc in the European assembly.

Le Pen was the only clear winner of the five, getting almost 25 percent support in May and beating the mainstream conservatives and ruling Socialist Party into second and third place.