Dutch, French Nationalists to Form Euroskeptic Bloc

Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders finally find enough allies to form a bloc in Strasbourg.

Marine Le Pen, leader of France's Front national, listens to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 1, 2014
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, listens to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 1, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons/Claude Truong-Ngoc)

Dutch and French nationalists said on Monday they finally had enough support to form a bloc in the European Parliament with other Euroskeptic and anti-immigration parties.

The group, called Europe of Nations and Freedoms, was due to be announced at a news conference on Tuesday and would be led by France’s Front national and the Dutch Freedom Party.

The former won 24 seats in last year’s European Parliament elections, more than the ruling Socialists and opposition conservatives. But it failed to find enough allies in order to qualify for subsidies and committee seats.

A bloc must have at least 25 members from seven member states.

Defections

Politico reports that the new group will include one member of the United Kingdom Independence Party, which is the largest in the rival Euroskeptic bloc led by Nigel Farage.

A Front national member previously defected to Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, which has 46 out of 751 seats in the Strasbourg assembly.

Before the last election, the Front‘s Marine Le Pen teamed up with the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders whose Freedom Party is the country’s fifth largest. They formed an alliance with separatist parties from Belgium and Italy as well as the Freedom Party of Austria, leaving them two nationalities short.

Specter of the far right

Th two leaders ruled out alliances with fascist parties like Greece’s Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik. But according to Politico, one Jobbik member would join their group now anyway to bring them up to the required seven.

Jobbik is openly antisemitic and seen as neo-Nazi by many Western commentators. It nevertheless got 20 percent support in parliamentary elections last year and has three out of Hungary’s 21 seats in the European Parliament.

Farage has refused to do business with the Front, saying it is still antisemitic despite Le Pen’s efforts to detoxify the party.

Since taking over as leader in 2011, Le Pen has tried to get rid of far-right elements and transformed the party her father, Jean-Marie, founded in 1972 into a broader nationalist movement that advocates protectionist economic policies as well as French exits from the eurozone and NATO.

Wilders’ party appears to have peaked at around 15 percent support. It is less protectionist than the Front and pro-Israel, but similarly wants the Netherlands to leave the euro.

Farage refuses to cooperate with Wilders because of his strong anti-Islam positions.

Combined, Farage’s and Le Pen’s blocs would be larger than the mildly Euroskeptic Conservatives and Reformists which are now the third largest group. It includes Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, the Finns Party — which joined the Nordic country’s government last month — and Poland’s Law and Justice.

Correction: After this story was published, it emerged no one from Jobbik would join the Europe of Nations and Freedoms group. Rather, the Polish Congress of the New Right’s two members would: another far-right party Le Pen and Wilders earlier refused to caucus with.

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