European far-right parties team up against Islam and Brussels

Six European far-right parties joined forces Thursday to combat immigration and European bureaucracy ahead of 2014 elections, French newspaper Liberation reported.

The parties, which include France’s Front National, are teaming up against two common enemies: Brussels and Islam, the newspaper said. The Netherlands’ PVV, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, Italy’s Liga Norte, Swedish democrats and Austria’s Freedom Party met at a hotel in Vienna to discuss the outlines of their collaboration.

The meeting happened in secret so as not to attract the attention of possible demonstrators, the paper said, and to be able to devote their time to strategizing about the future of the far-right in Europe.

But Andreas Mölzer, the organizer of the meeting and an Austrian member of the European Parliament, confirmed the meeting took place. “The points that unite us are more important than those that separate us,” he told Liberation.

The National Front declined to comment for this story.

Vlaams Belang’s Filip Claeys told Flemish newspaper De Morgen he would join the meeting the next day. “We are going to define a number of themes tomorrow to go to voters together,” Claeys said. “Think migration and the extension of the European Union.”

The politicians aim to form a political party in the European Parliament, the newspaper reported, for which they need 25 representatives from seven countries. They also wish to draw up a common list of issues to address in parliament, as well as smooth over their differences from the past.

A pact that would forbid members to use racist language could help achieve the latter goal, convincing more moderate parties to step into the fray.

In October, Front National member Anne-Sophie Leclere was suspended after having compared black French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey who she “preferred to see up in a tree than in the government.”

After the incident, Toubira told French newspaper Le Monde that Leclere had apparently failed to understand her bosses’ directives, which, she said, are to pretend the party isn’t racist to appease center-right voters and “de-diabolize” the party. Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of Front National, was convicted for racism and anti-Semitism several times, something his daughter, FN President Marine Le Pen, has tried to avoid.

In June, the European parliament voted to strip her of immunity so she could be prosecuted for likening praying Muslims in the street to the Nazi occupation.

“For those who like to talk about World War II, to talk about occupation, we could talk about, for once, the occupation of our territory,” she said during a speech in 2010.

But parties such as the National Front and Austria’s Freedom Party vehemently deny they are racist and publicly distance themselves from Greece’s Golden Dawn, whose president was recently charged with founding and participating in a criminal organization. Or from Hungary’s Jobbik party, whose leader regularly makes headlines with anti-Semitic statements.

On Wednesday, Dutch PVV leader Geert Wilders, who has strong ties to anti-Muslim commentator Pamela Geller and whose legal defense against Dutch charges of inciting hatred was paid for by the Middle East Forum, a conservative think tank, met Marine Le Pen in the Netherlands. The leaders announced their alliance and desire to “liberate Europe from the monster of Brussels,” Wilders told reporters.

“The time of patriotic movements being divided is over,” Le Pen said.

Brussels epitomizes bureaucratic inefficiency, they believe, and infringes on national sovereignty in times when the financial crisis left an average of 23.5 percent of European youth unemployed. Richer, northern nations end up footing the bill while being unable to manage their currencies or key policies themselves, euroskeptics say.

Brussels’ so-called overbearing tendencies, evident in such measures as lowering the motor power of vacuum cleaners sold in the EU, are routinely ridiculed by Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). His much-publicized diatribes at the European parliament have earned him praise from voters who wish to pull out of the union.

But the far-right alliance members failed to convince Farage to participate in the meeting, Libération reported, as well as several Scandinavian nationalist parties who don’t wish to be formally associated with the bloc.

Al Jazeera America, 15 November 2013

See also John Palmer. “The rise of the far right: a European problem requiring European solutions”, Guardian, 15 November 2013