European far-right leaders gathered in the southern French city of Nice on Tuesday to launch their continent-wide anti-immigration campaign ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections.
Marine Le Pen of the Front National was joined by Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom, Harald Vilimsky of Austria's Freedom Party and Czech nationalist Tomio Okamura.
Matteo Salvini, head of the Italian far-right League and a potential candidate for prime minister in the country’s on-going coalition negotiations, sent a video message of support to the gathering.
At the meeting of far-right supporters, which was met by an anti-fascist counter-demonstration, Ms Le Pen claimed a far-right majority in the European elections was possible that that it could “change Europe”
The extremist, who came second in last year’s French presidential election, claimed Nice, which has a diverse population, “suffered from very strong pressure from migration that has partly changed its face”.
The French far-right leader had earlier on Tuesday laid a wreath at a monument of Joan of Arc in nearby Cannes, to mark international labour day.
“The European Union today has catastrophic consequences for our countries, and yet another Europe is possible, the Union of European Nations,” she told a rally as she met with the leaders.
“Europe is a good idea and the European Union is killing it.”
The next European Parliament elections are scheduled for the 23 to 26 of May 2019 – after Britain is set to leave the European Union.
Ms Le Pen’s plans for a majority for her allies are vanishingly unlikely to be realised: the Front National’s EU-wide grouping, the Europe of Nations and Freedom, has just 36 seats in the 751 member chamber, with Ms Le Pen’s party’s accounting for around half its number.
ENF is the smallest group in the European Parliament, having been shunned by other right-wing parties, including Ukip, because it is seen as two extreme.
In recent years Ms Le Pen has tried to clean up her party’s racist image. In 2016 a court upheld the exclusion of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, from the party which he had founded.
His daughter took over in 2011 and has tried to steer the party to more mainstream success, claiming to reject its historic explicit antisemitism and racism. She accused her father of committing “political suicide”.
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