The PDU points out that the recent announcement of Marine LePen and Geert Wilders to join forces against “the monster in Brussels” for the 2014 European elections raises questions about the future of Euroscepticism and the European far-right. By Felix Lettau
The president of France’s nationalist Front National, and the leader of the Dutch populist party PVV have both achieved broad national support bases through agendas that address tighter immigration control, Islamophobia and anti-supranationalism. Now they have decided to unite ahead of the 2014 EU parliament elections. But what does this move mean for Euroscepticism and anti-EU parties in Europe?
Both Wilders and LePen have in recent years tried to distance themselves from their images as populist right-wing politicians. In Wilders case this meant a softening of xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric that was his hallmark through his controversial 2008 film ‘Fitna’. For Marine LePen it meant moving away from a heritage of antisemitic comments left by her father Jean-Marie.
With a shared anti-EU sentiment, the two politicans now attempt to form a new bloc in the EU parliament to push for national sovereignty and tougher immigration laws. This new force in European politics could yield great results for those opposed to EU-integration, as Eurosceptics are already expected to gain a lot of votes in 2014. Wilders’ and LePen’s notoriety and rhetoric could create a buzz appealing to a lot of voters.
But the Eurosceptic spectrum across the continent is fractured, and the new union was received with mixed feelings by Nigel Farage’s UKIP and others. While there is a substantial base for a Eurosceptic party to perform well in next years’ election, ideological divisions and bad reputation leave its potential threat without a potent organisational structure. While Wilders and LePen struggle to lose their populist image, UKIP distances itself from the union, with Nigel Farage stressing the parties libertarian principles and “different political background and tradition”. Similarly, right-wing parties such as the BNP, Austrian Freedom party and similar parties in Scandinavia are ostracised for creating bad press and excessive political extremism. The currently existing Eurosceptic party EFD in Brussels is deeply divided and stagnant.
It is for these reasons that the alliance between Wilders and LePen comes at an interesting time for the Eurosceptic spectrum. If it leads to a possible caucus in parliament next year, uniting the European political right under the banner of Euroscepticism, it could become a serious force in the EU. Before this stands the task of organizing the fractured interest groups and like-minded parties.
Whichever side one takes on this question of a political organisation of Eurosceptics, the big problem with Wilders’ and LePen’s alignment is that it is aimed at corrupting the European Union from the inside and to slow down the policy-making process, rather than focusing on the structural reform in governance that Europe needs.
Image “Meeting 1er Mai 2012 Front National” courtesy to Blandine LC via flickr.com, released under creative commons 2.0 share alike.