France’s presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has told a far-right conference “2016 was the year the Anglo Saxon world woke up”.
The Front National leader was among anti-immigration and populist parties who gathered at a conference dubbed the “European counter-summit” in Koblenz in Germany.
Parties including the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Dutch Freedom Party and Italy’s Northern League outlined their plans for a “patriotic spring” in Europe.
They were joined by former Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson, who is now an independent member of the European Parliament after being expelled from the party over an expenses claim made by a member of her staff.
Ms Le Pen told cheering crowds: “2016 was the year the Anglo-Saxon world woke up. 2017, I am sure, the people of continental Europe will wake up.
“It's no longer a question of if, but when.”
The Front National leader, whose father was convicted over racial hatred, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, denounced the EU as “a force of sterilisation” and attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel – whose name was booed loudly – for her refugee policy.
Crowds chanted the Nazi era term “Lügenpresse”, which means “lying press” and was named Germany’s “non-word” of 2015, after several major news outlets were banned from attending that year’s far-right conference.
Despite the occasional anger, the general mood was celebratory after a year that saw Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and election surges for previously fringe parties.
“Yesterday, a new America. Today – hello Koblenz – a new Europe!” said Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-Islam Dutch Freedom Party.
“The people of the West are awakening. They are throwing off the yoke of political correctness.
“This year will be the year of the people ... the year of liberation, the year of the patriotic spring.”
His party could win the largest percentage of votes in the Netherlands parliamentary election in March, while Ms Le Pen is now considered a serious contender in the French presidential election.
Ms Merkel is battling to prevent her party losing seats to the anti-immigration AfD in September, when Frauke Petry’s increasingly radical Eurosceptic party expects to enter the Bundestag for the first time.
The meeting of the Europe of Nations and Freedom group in the European Parliament also featured Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Northern League and Harald Vilimsky, the general secretary of Austria’s Freedom Party, which last year narrowly failed to win the country’s presidency.
“We are experiencing the end of one world and the birth of another,” Ms Le Pen said. “We are experiencing the return of nation-states.”
She claimed the first “real blow to the old order” was June’s vote for Britain to leave the European Union, followed closely by Mr Trump’s shock election victory.
The new President, already close to Ms Le Pen’s ally in the European Parliament, Nigel Farage, “will not support a system of oppression” in Europe, she said.
Marcus Pretzell, one of the AfD’s MEPs and Ms Petry’s husband, denied accreditation to German public broadcasters and several other news outlets because he did not like how they reported on its party.
He opened the congress by lamenting the current state of the EU, the Schengen zone and the Euro, as well as claiming that “we have a problem with political Islam”.
Left-wing protesters staged a sit-in outside the hall shouting slogans including “no border, no nation, stop deportation”.
Not far away, demonstrators from the global Avaaz activist group placed statues of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Josef Stalin, among others, in front of a landmark statue of German Kaiser Wilhelm.
Activist Pascal Vollenweider said the statues of the dictators were meant to send a “strong message” to the nationalist politicians meeting that “global citizens are rejecting their old dangerous ideas”.
“They are not fascists in jackboots, it’s a different type of fascism, of course, but if you look at the ideas ... it’s very dangerous, and we have to face it: these guys are carrying old, dangerous fascist ideas,” he added.
This item has been amended to make clear that the expenses claim over which Ms Atkinson was expelled from Ukip, was made by a member of her staff, not her. The only person charged over the incident was Christine Hewitt, the aide in question. We are glad to clarify matters. 24/1/17
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